Remembering Past Greats: Andre Levret

Author Information

Prasad M
(Assistant Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Seth G S Medical College and K E M Hospital, Mumbai, India.)

Andre Levret (1703-80) was an obstetrician who lived in France. He is famous for having been one of the leading obstetricians of his time. His excellent skills and patient outcomes led him to be the obstetrician of the French royal family. It is narrated that when someone mentioned that his reputation would increase because he would be attending to the parturition of the French queen. To this, he replied “It is because I already have a reputation that I am here”.[1] 
He was keen on instrumental deliveries and was one of the first to invent the long forceps. It is believed that he may have designed the first forceps which carried a screw that gripped the two halves together, making way for what is described as the “crossed” forceps.[2] He kept continuously improving already existing forceps models, as and when he deciphered more details of the anatomy of the female pelvis.[3]
Levret was also one of the supporters for the then popular concept of “milk fever”. It was believed that many infectious complications in the puerperal period was because of retrograde accumulation of milk in various parts of the body including peritoneum and thighs.[4]
Levret was probably the first to approve a phantom pelvis and a doll to help demonstration of the process of birth to midwives. Devised by a prominent midwife Madame du Coudray,[1] Levret’s approval paved way for a teaching practice which continues to be practiced even today.
He is commonly compared to his contemporary Smellie as a great in the field of obstetrics, for not just introducing new concepts but also for mentoring many students.[5]

  1. Biographies. In O’Dowd MJ, Philipp EE, editors. The History of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 1st ed. Lancs: Parthenon Publishing Group 2000; pp. 634.
  2. Feraud O. [Forceps: description, obstetric mecanics, indications and contra-indications]. J Gynecol Obstet Biol Reprod (Paris). 2008; 37 Suppl 8:S202-9.
  3. Thiery M. [Obstetrical study of the pelvis: a historical overview]. Verh K Acad Geneeskd Belg. 1995;57(3):199-228.
  4. Dumont M. [Milk fever]. Rev Fr Gynecol Obstet. 1989;84(5):451-3.
  5. Tsoucalas G, Kousoulis AA, Karamanou M, Androutsos G.  Scotland's "wooden operator" William Smellie (1697-1763) and his counterpart in France AndrĂ© Levret (1703-1780): two great obstetricians and anatomists. Ital J Anat Embryol. 2011;116(3):148-52.

Prasad M. Remembering past greats: Andre Levret. JPGO 2018. Volume 5 No.10. Available from: