Every pregnant person hopes for a smooth and successful birth. The expectation is not that you would have to perform a cesarean section (C-section) on yourself, which is what happened to one mother.
Back in 2003, one extraordinary story emerged from a case report. A 40-year-old mother called Inés Ramírez Pérez (who had eight previous surviving children) had been admitted to hospital three years prior after she had performed a self-inflicted c-section, luckily both mother and child survived.
The patient lived in a one-room cabin in a small village located in the mountains of southern Mexico, which had no electricity, running water, or sanitation. Perez had unfortunately lost a baby two years prior, due to obstructed labor. So, after 12 hours of labor and with no other adult help, she took matters into her own hands (literally).
"I couldn't stand the pain anymore," she told The Sydney Morning Herald during an interview at her isolated home. "And if my baby was going to die, then I decided I would have to die, too. But if he was going to grow up, I was going to see him grow up, and I was going to be with my child. I thought that God would save both our lives."
With previous skills in slaughtering animals, three small glasses of hard liquor, and a kitchen knife, the patient sliced her abdomen three times through the skin, fat, and muscle. She cut the uterus longitudinally and in a squatted position – this technique probably kept her from damaging her internal organs. After an hour, she pulled her baby boy out of the bloody wound. Luckily the baby was able to breathe and cry immediately.
It seemed that she did not bleed excessively, and was able to ask one of her children to call for a local nurse before she became unconscious. When the nurse arrived, they tucked her bowel loops back into her body and sutured the skin using an ordinary sewing needle and cotton thread.
The mother was then taken to the nearest hospital which was around eight hours away. Once at the hospital, the surgical team made sure that there was no sepsis or injury to the organs and then patched her up and gave her a triple antibiotic therapy. Ten days after the operation, the patient recovered and was discharged from the hospital.
At the time of the report, only anecdotal accounts of self-inflicted C-sections had been described, and there were no detailed cases where both the mother and child survived. This was a rare case that was compounded by the fact that the rural setting where the mother was located was not adequately supplied with health care. In these settings, when there is a difficulty in pregnancy, it can end in fetal, and sometimes the mother’s, death.
Although this case had a successful outcome, measures should be implemented to avoid cases like this one, so that people all over the world are offered essential reproductive care.
The case report is published in the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics.