cesarean section (sĭzârˈēən) [key], delivery of an infant by surgical removal from the uterus through an abdominal incision. The operation is of ancient origin: indeed, the name derives from the legend that Julius Caesar was born in this fashion. Until advancements in the late 19th cent., the mother generally died in surgery. The procedure was also aided by antisepsis, anesthetics, and other developments that made surgery as a whole more successful. Cesarean section is performed nowadays when factors exist that make natural childbirth hazardous, such as an abnormally narrow pelvis, pelvic tumors, hemorrhage, active infection with herpes simplex, multiple births, or an abnormal position of the fetus within the uterus. Subsequent deliveries are largely also by cesarean section. In the last few decades there has been a significant increase in the number of cesarean sections performed; among the factors encouraging the rise are the increase in malpractice litigation arising from problems attendant to vaginal deliveries and the information provided by the many new devices that monitor the well-being of the fetus in the uterus.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.