Cesarean Section History

Pliny the Elder theorized that Julius Caesar's name came from an ancestor who was born by Caesarean section, but the truth of this is debated (see the article on the Etymology of the name of Julius Caesar). The Ancient Roman Caesarean section was first performed to remove a baby from the womb of a mother who died during childbirth. Caesar's mother, Aurelia, lived through childbirth and successfully gave birth to her son, ruling out the possibility that the Roman Dictator and General was born by Caesarean section.

The Catalan saint, Raymond Nonnatus (1204-1240), received his surname — from the Latin ''non natus'' ("not born") — because he was born by Caesarean section. His mother died while giving birth to him.

In 1316 the future Robert II of Scotland was delivered by Caesarean section — his mother, Marjorie Bruce, died. This may have been the inspiration for Macduff in Shakespeare's play ''Macbeth".

Caesarean section usually resulted in the death of the mother; the first recorded incidence of a woman surviving a Caesarean section was in 1500, in Siegershausen, Switzerland: Jakob Nufer, a pig gelder, is supposed to have performed the operation on his wife after a prolonged labour. For most of the time since the sixteenth century, the procedure had a high mortality. However, it was long considered an extreme measure, performed only when the mother was already dead or considered to be beyond help. In Great Britain and Ireland the mortality rate in 1865 was 85%. Key steps in reducing mortality were:

  • Adherence to principles of asepsis.
  • The introduction of uterine suturing by Max Sänger in 1882.
  • Extraperitoneal CS and then moving to low transverse incision (Krönig, 1912).
  • Anesthesia advances.
  • Blood transfusion.
  • Antibiotics.

European travelers in the Great Lakes region of Africa during the 19th century observed Caesarean sections being performed on a regular basis. The expectant mother was normally anesthetized with alcohol, and herbal mixtures were used to encourage healing. From the well-developed nature of the procedures employed, European observers concluded that they had been employed for some time.

On March 5, 2000, Inés Ramírez performed a caesarean section on herself and survived, as did her son, Orlando Ruiz Ramírez. She is believed to be the only woman to have performed a successful Caesarean section on herself.

An early account of Caesarean section in Iran is mentioned in the book of Shahnameh, written around 1000 AD, and relates to the birth of Rostam, the national legendary hero of Iran .

Further Reading


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