why were medieval cesarean sections fatal? Excluding obvious infection risks, why was the procedure it’s self deadly?


Came home from a placental abruption resulting in a horrifying emergency c section and 2 week hospital stay and made a bad choice to watch House of the Dragon where cesareans are a death sentence. I did a bit of research and found out medieval c sections did happen but were only performed if the mother was dying anyway as it was always fatal. I understand that infection would’ve killed any surviving women back then but apparently they died during the operation anyway. So I’m confused about what killed women during the procedure it’s self? As far as I’m aware I did not receive a blood transfusion so it can’t have been blood loss which would’ve been my guess pre my own experience. Did they not have the medical tools necessary to put those women back together afterwards eg stitches? Or did they not know how to make insicions in a non fatal way?

In: 45

A caesarian is a major operation in which you are cutting through not just skin but the muscle layer and the protective membrane around the internal organs. Unless you know exactly where to cut and not to cut and you know how to patch it all up in a way that can be healed afterwards, that is a very deadly surgery. And quite frankly it wasn’t until the late 1700s and early 1800s that people started digging up corpses in order to cut them apart and learn those skills.

Even today that is not a surgery that is taken lightly and it has a lot of risks, which is why it is reserved for pretty dangerous conditions.

Even though you didn’t need a blood transfusion you were certainly connected to an IV that helped maintain your fluid volume and the attending professionals also kept your body from going into shock by monitoring your vital signs and management of pain.

Cutting people open is easy.

Cutting people open *and they survive* is harder.

Medieval C-sections usually break the #1 rule of Emergency Medicine: Air goes in and out; Blood goes round and round; deviating from this is Bad.

Such a process can cause lots of blood to go Out if not done carefully, but in medieval times they could not put blood back In.

In Modern Times ™, surgeons are trained to cut people open with Great Skill, and in such a way as to limit blood loss, such as avoiding major blood vessels, clamping them shut if necessary, [scalpels that automatically cauterize incisions](https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4236379/), tools that are sharp and clean, cutting techniques that minimize collateral damage, and so on.

Also not all blood loss needs to be replaced with blood. Saline (precision salt water) can work up to a certain point to replace blood that has gone Out. They will also have Highly Trained Support Staff to carefully monitor your vitals and put blood back In if it’s really needed.

One other thing that other commentors haven’t said – you probably have grown up eating 3 healthy meals a day with all the required nutrients, and drinking a reasonable amount of water, may or may not work out, etc.

your body is different from what a medieval peasant or even queen’s would be like – even if there was a medieval c-section carried out on you and a medieval woman of the same age, you would be more likely to survive (all other things being equal) because your body has had much better nutrition throughout your life, among other factors

The procedure as well is done with much more sophisticated tools, and by people who have experience in the procedure – an ‘average’ medieval surgeon would be a barber by trade, and use the same knives and similar blades for surgery, and may perform around 10 c-sections a year and cut 1,000 people’s hair in between with the same type of tools, but many surgeons today would probably do 10 c-sections in a 6month period or shorter depending on the hospital and use specially designed tools for the process that may be one-use only, rather than have been used to cut peoples hair yesterday and repurposed later for the operation the next day

plus you probably were given drugs during the procedure and afterwards – drugs that no medieval person would know about, they wouldn’t only stop infection, but also stop you from feeling pain (the best painkiller in the medieval world was alcohol, which is problematic for a number of reasons in surgery), a medieval woman wouldn’t have those drugs, so even if the surgery was performed by an experienced person and in some clean environment, the pain of it would often cause shock and complications leading to death

Fun fact. The blood flow to a pregnant uterus is 700-900ml per minute. There for, once cut to remove a baby, a women can exsanguinate in less than 10 minutes. Even today a normal C Section will loose a liter of blood.