Levret type III delivery forceps, German, 1751-1800.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Steel forceps by Weber. Obstetric forceps were first used in the 18th century, especially by the 'man-midwives' who were moving into the profession. Dr William Chamberlain devised the first obstetrical forceps in the late 16th century. Two tong-like blades were inserted separately into the mother's birth canal and around the baby's head, then locked together to ease the baby out. In the mid 18th century many 'men-midwives' emerged leading to contributions to the anatomical understanding of gestation and birth. English surgeon William Smellie (1697-1763) and French surgeon Andre Levret (1703-1780) simultaneously improved the forceps by adding interlocking blades and a pelvic curve to the instrument. This basic type is still in use today.