Caesarean section – what you need to know about it

A caesarean section is a surgical operation in which an incision is made in the abdomen of a pregnant woman who is unable to give birth naturally in order to remove the foetus. The operation is statistically performed in about 15% of cases and has a number of indications in most countries.


The name of the operation is thought to come from the Latin word ‘Caesar’, meaning ‘king’ or ‘lord’ and goes back to Gaius Julius Caesar. According to legend, one of his relatives was born this way – when the woman in labor died, her abdomen was opened so that, according to religious custom, the baby could be buried separately from its mother. However, the baby turned out to be alive, and it was prophesied to have an astonishing destiny and be under the patronage of the gods.

The other, much more plausible variant of origin of the name is one of the later laws of the Roman Empire which obliged doctors to try by all means to save the infant of the dying mother. It was called Lex Caesarea – the “Imperial Law”.

It was not until the 16th century that C-sections were performed on living women. It was practised by the Frenchman Ambroise Paré and was performed only when a woman had no chance of giving birth normally. However, all the operations ended up being fatal for the woman in labour, as the doctor did not sew up the uterus, believing there was no need to do so and it would regenerate itself through its ability to contract.

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Since the 19th century, the operation was performed to save a woman’s life, and the mortality rate at the time was about 25%. With the invention of antibiotics and quality sutures for stitching incisions, death during caesarean section has become a rare occurrence and the method is now widely used all over the world.

In some countries, caesarean operations are carried out without any direct medical indication, relying only on the wish or desire of the woman. With the operation, women in labour seek to avoid labour pain, perineal incisions and vaginal distension. However, the World Health Organization reminds us that caesarean section, although not risky, is a difficult operation which should be used only as a last resort. This is because a baby born by Caesarean section risks a lifelong nervous breakdown, and the woman risks not being able to give birth naturally at a later stage. In addition, the operation requires a long recovery period and it will not be easier than the healing of perineal incisions.