The Risks Of A Cesarean Section

A new study on maternal mortality finds that the rate is up to 50 times higher in many African countries than in high-income countries.
Doctors treat a baby whose mother underwent a cesarean section in Sierra Leone. Doctors Without Borders has worked to help reduce the country's high maternal mortality rate. Source: Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images

It happened almost a decade ago, while Dr. Salome Maswime was doing her medical internship at a small hospital in rural South Africa.

She was in a morning staff meeting when a junior doctor burst in, in a panic.

A young woman in need of an emergency cesarean section had reacted badly to the epidural, or spinal anesthetic, the doctors had administered. The anesthesia had spread farther than it was meant to.

"This was not an uncommon complication. We should have been prepared to manage this," Maswime says. But they weren't. "All of us at this hospital

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