What it did do was cause me to look up the Caesarean process. I had imagined it to be a relatively modern innovation. Not so:
1794: Elizabeth Bennett delivers a daughter by Caesarean section, becoming the first woman in the United States to give birth this way and survive. Her husband, Jesse, is the physician who performs the operation.
He was pressed into service after Elizabeth, struggling with a difficult labor and believing she would die, requested her attending physician to perform a Caesarean in the hope of saving the baby. The doctor refused on moral grounds, so Jesse stepped in.
Conditions were crude. The procedure was performed in the Bennett home, deep in the Virginia backwoods. A sterile environment was out of the question: The operating table consisted of a couple of planks laid across two barrels. Jesse Bennett resorted to laudanum — lots of it — to knock out his wife.
Despite these limitations, the surgery went smoothly. Bennett extracted a healthy girl and he closed the incision, but not before taking the opportunity to remove his wife's ovaries, saying he "would not be subjected to such an ordeal again." Elizabeth quickly recovered, but her feelings about Jesse's excursion into her ovaries were not recorded.
Although the surgery was successful, Bennett didn't immediately report what he'd done. He apparently feared being ridiculed as a liar, given the primitive conditions under which such a dangerous operation had been performed. Nevertheless, the details eventually came to light and Bennett (not to mention his intrepid wife) entered the annals of obstetric history.
Even in the Bennetts' time, the Caesarean section was not new. What was new was the idea that both mother and child could survive the ordeal. The operation itself dated from antiquity, but with very few exceptions was only performed when the mother was dead or dying. The first recorded Caesarean where both mother and child survived was done in Switzerland, in 1500. That was also a husband-wife affair, although in this case Jacob Nufer was a swine gelder, not a doctor.
Before the 19th century, the success rate for physicians performing C-sections in the hope of saving both mother and child was very low. Even with advances in medicine it remained a relatively high-risk procedure into the 20th century.
Times have sure changed. Now, Caesareans are so routine that some critics believe they are often performed unnecessarily, as the "delivery method of choice" even when natural birth presents no unusual danger.
The World Health Organization agrees, recommending that Caesarean rates should not exceed 15 percent of all live births in any country. In the United States, roughly 31 percent of all births are done by Caesarean section, including an increasing number that are performed as an expedient alternative to natural birth. Now, why would anyone opt for major abdominal surgery without a sound medical reason?
Source: Time magazine