Original articles

Caesarean section – etymology and early history

Pieter Willem van Dongen


The expression Caesarean Section (CS) is most probably a case of creative etymology and not derived from the alleged CS of the mother of Julius Caesar. Mythology and legends emphasize the importance of being "superhuman" by CS, thus avoiding the normal vaginal delivery. Many religions describe how to behave after (post mortem) CS. The first reliable account of a CS took place in Germany in 1610. First successful CS, i.e. the proven survival of mother and child, are 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 due to new techniques such as closing the uterine wound, drainage, asepsis, anti-sepsis and elective CS.

Author's affiliations

Pieter Willem van Dongen, University of Stellenbosch

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caesarean section, delivery

Cite this article

South African Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology 2009;15(2):62.

Article History

Date submitted: 2009-07-30
Date published: 2009-09-03

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