Friday, 19 July 2019

First successful caesarean was probably performed in Prague

ČTK |
13 September 2016

Prague, Sept 12 (CTK) - The first caesarean section in history which both the mother and child survived was probably performed in Prague in 1337 and the offspring was Wenceslas, Emperor Charles IV's half-brother, a member of the team of Prague historians and doctors who studied the matter for several years has told CTK.
Physician Antonin Parizek, from the 1st Medicine Faculty of Charles University, said the mother was Beatrix of Bourbon (1320-83), the second wife of Czech King John of Luxembourg.
Historians say it was theoretically possible to perform caesarean, but it was fatal for both the mother and the child with a few exceptions. This was so because until roughly 1870, it was not possible to operate on the stomach because effective anaesthesia was not known.
The first case of caesarean section which the woman survived comes from Switzerland from 1500.
Queen Beatrix survived by a great chance. "We do not have direct evidence, but five indirect proofs testify to that this probably happened. This discovery may be a milestone in the history of medicine," Parizek said.
The Czech experts' discovery was first published in the journal Ceska gynekologie (Czech Gynaecology) in August.
The experts worked with several period records and correspondence on the exceptional delivery of Queen Beatrix.
They also mention a Flemish rhymed chronicle in which the author does not conceal his astonishment at the operation and claims that the future duke was taken out from the mother's body and the wound healed up.
"It must be taken into consideration that the health condition of rulers, not to say the course of a delivery, were not normally spoken about," Parizek said.
The fact that Beatrix did not bleed to death, survived the traumatic shock and did not get sepsis was due to a remarkable coincidence.
A role may have been played by the fact that Prague was the seat of learning at that time and that competent barber-surgeons stayed at the court.
Yet, if it really happened, the steps taken did not aim to save the mother. Princess Beatrix was most probably considered dead when the surgery was performed, Parizek said.
The experts say Beatrix was probably losing consciousness, or she already lost it when the caesarean was performed. The task of the barber-surgeons was to take out the child and to baptise it without which it could not be redeemed.
Parizek said the incision pain could have caused Beatrix to regain consciousness and the stress situation could have prevented her bleeding to death.
Beatrix died in 1383 only and had no more children.
Historians also looked at why the child was called Wenceslas, which was the name of the son of John of Luxembourg and his first wife Elise of Premyslid, who was born in 1316 and who later became Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia. He was given the name Charles IV. on his confirmation in France.
"It is surprising that the child of the parents who both spoke French (Beatrix did not speak Czech at all, only French) was given the Slavonic name Wenceslas. In addition, it was more or less clear that Wenceslas will inherit a Francophone territory, which did happen, where the name Wenceslas sounded utterly alien, did not have any tradition and was difficult to pronounce," Parizek said.
This may be explained by the wish of the royal family to express their exceptional gratitude to St Wenceslas, the patron saint of the Czech land.
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