The vaginal speculum – that creepy looking metal device […]
The vaginal speculum – that creepy looking metal device used to examine the vagina and cervix – has remained largely unchanged since the 19th century.
Vaginal speculum is an instrument in a contested technology. As the oldest instrument in the technology of obstetric surveillance and diagnosis, the vaginal speculum provoked serious debates about the propriety and power of looking at women’s bodies. Contemporary devices, such as the ultrasound machine and the electronic fetal monitor, continue to engender debates about looking. Nurses are key participants in technologically mediated spectatorship, as nursing practice with women increasingly comprises looking at and through them with instruments.
A vaginal speculum examines inside the vagina. It helps medical diagnosis and can also assist treating that area of the body. This example was invented by French surgeon Antoine Joseph Jobert de Lamballe (1799-1867). It is specifically designed for treating vesico-vaginal fistulas. This is a hole that develops between the bladder and the vaginal wall. It often forms as a result of disease, difficult childbirth or other injury. The condition can be treated with an operation known as a ‘Jobert’s operation’. Jobert designed this instrument. The operation uses a form of skin graft to close the passageway. The ivory speculum has a tri-valved barrel with introducer and chequered ebony handle. It was made by French instrument maker Charriere.