These days caesarean section is very common. Cesarean babies account for around 33% of the total number of births in the U.S. However, what intrigues us is where does this name come from?
In ancient cultures, babies were removed from their mothers’ abdomen. This procedure was performed to save the child when the mother was dead or was dying. This was also done to separate them for purpose of religious burial when both of them did not survive. There are several interesting theories behind the origin of the name of the surgical procedure, but none of them presents an evidence-based explanation for calling it caesarean section.
History of Caesarian Section
Now, coming to the point, a common reason why it is called “caesarian section” or cesarean section is associated with a tale regarding the birth of Julius Caesar, a famous leader of Rome. According to The Suda, a Byzantine encyclopedia, when Julius Caesar’s mother named Aurelia died when she was pregnant by nine months, she was cut open and Caesar was taken out. So, he was called Caesar as in Roman language, Caesar means dissection. However, this story is not considered true and it is believed that Caesar’s mother survived her son’s birth. Also, many believe that she even served as a political adviser when Caesar was an adult.
It has been written in the Elder’s Historia Naturalis that Caesar was so called because he was cut from the womb of his mother.
And that is not all, a better explanation is suggested for the coining of the term “Caesarian Section.” According to The Suda and Historia Naturalis, Caesar comes from “Caedere,” a Latin word which means “to cut.” Another term “caesones” is used for babies who are born through this surgical procedure. Therefore, it is also thought by some that the word cesarean section comes from the word caesones or caedere.
Some sources believe that the word Caesar came from Caesaries, another Latin word which means long and flowing hair. This could be because some ancestors of Julius Caesar had long flowing hair.
A different plausible theory originates from the Roman decree that babies of women who are dying or dead, should be cut or separated from womb. This is as per the law called Lex Caesarea.
There is no accurate answer to how the name originated. This operation was called Caesarean operation before Jacques Guillimeau, a French surgeon, came up with the term section in his book on midwifery in 1598. Gradually, it came to be known as Caesarean section.
Guillimeau’s book was published after 17 years of a French surgeon Francois Rousset publishing the treatise promoting the procedure which was described as enfantement cesarien or cesarean birth. His theory was subjected to controversies. But physicians have attempted C-section births not only to save the child but also the mother.
By the middle of 20th century, C sections became more common and also safer. Still the origin of the procedure is debatable. Hospitals that perform C-sections today are also under radar especially in countries like the U.S. and China.
Whatever it may be, we can at least say that Caesar was not born through C-section.