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Woman Performs Her Own Caesarean and Survives

A 40-year-old rural Mexican woman gave birth to a healthy baby boy after performing a C-section on herself with a kitchen knife. It is thought to be the first known case of a self-inflicted Caesarean in which both the mother and baby survived. The woman performed the operation when she could not deliver the baby naturally, having lost a previous baby due to labor complications. She took three small glasses of hard liquor and, using a kitchen knife, sliced her abdomen in three attempts and delivered a male infant that breathed immediately and cried. Before losing consciousness, the woman told one of her children to call a local nurse for help. After the nurse stitched the wound with a sewing needle and cotton thread, the mother and baby were transferred to the local hospital.

About one-quarter of babies are delivered by Caesarean section and most of these are unnecessary. Generally C-sections are not the best option as they are frequently done for the convenience of a physician. However, as the above story indicates, there are clearly times when they are indicated and it is an extraordinary benefit to have all the resources of advanced modern surgical care.

Besides using a midwife and having a home-birth if possible, there are several things that women can do in order to lower their chances of needing a C-section:

  • Get a Doula -- Also known as a 'labor assistant' or 'montrice.' They have been shown in published studies to lower C-section rates, as well as provide other benefits.
  • Make a Birth Plan -- This is a document that states the expectant mother's or couple's interests or desires for their birth experience. It is not a legal document but simply a good way of letting the doctors and hospital staff know of your wishes. Many interventions (e.g., epidurals, pitocin, etc.) can lead to an increased risk of C-section and can be avoided by making your desires clear.
  • Talk to Your OB/GYN -- Be sure to talk to your doctor early in the pregnancy, or even before hand, about different issues, including C-sections. For example, you can ask how often they perform C-sections.
  • Avoid epidural/pitocin if possible -- These will increase your chances of needing a C-section.

BBC News April 7, 2004

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