Historians Question Medieval C-Section 'Breakthrough' Trumpeted by the New York Times

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tags: medicine, C Section

Kristina Killgrove write about archaeology, anthropology, and the classical world.

A few weeks ago, the New York Times ran the piece "A Breakthrough in C-Section History," detailing a recent article in a medical journal about Beatrice of Bourbon's 1337 delivery. But medical historians have criticized the news item as a problematic summary of a questionable analysis.

The study, published in the obscure Czech journal Česká Gynekologie, is by a medical doctor, a philosopher and a medical historian at Charles University in Prague. In it, the researchers, led by first author Antonin Parízek, claim that historical records of the difficult pregnancy and delivery of Beatrice of Bourbon, the second wife of King John of Bohemia, are the earliest recorded evidence of a mother surviving a caesarean section.

There is plenty of evidence for C-section delivery prior to the 14th century, as I've detailed elsewhere. But in these cases, the procedure was done as a last-ditch effort to save the baby when a mother was dead or dying. Doctors did not expect mothers to survive the operation until the 16th century, when French physician François Rousset became the first to advocate for the procedure, and it wasn't until the 1940s with advances in antibiotics that C-sections became routine, survivable surgeries.

Read entire article at Forbes

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