Caesarean section - etymology and early history

Van Dongen, Pieter Willem J. (2009-09)

CITATION: Van Dongen, P. W. J. 2009. Caesarean section - etymology and early history. South African Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 15(2):62-66.

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ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The expression caesarean section (CS) is most probably creative etymology and not derived from the CS allegedly performed on the mother of Julius Caesar. Mythology and legends emphasise the importance of being 'superhuman' if delivered by CS, and therefore avoid mentioning normal vaginal delivery. Many religions describe procedures to be followed after death as a result of CS. The first reliable account of a CS was in 1610 in Germany. The first successful CSs, i.e. proven survival of mother and child, were described in The Netherlands (1792), South Africa (1826), UK (1834), USA (1835) and Germany (1841). Maternal mortality decreased rapidly in the last quarter of the 19th century owing to new techniques, such as closing the uterine wound, drainage, asepsis, anti-sepsis, and elective CS.

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