This Woman Performed Her Own Cesarean Section—and Survived

Updated: Mar. 30, 2022

With no one around but her other children, Ines Ramirez Perez did the seemingly impossible to save the life of her baby.

Closeup of woman belly with a scar from a cesarean sectionDasha Muller/ShutterstockBy the time she was pregnant for the eighth time, Ines Ramirez Perez knew that she would not have the luxury of an easy labor. The 40-year-old resident of a remote mountain village in southern Mexico had already given birth to six surviving children. She’d lost her last baby due to an obstructed delivery, and this time, after 12 hours of painful labor, Perez realized she was going to lose this baby too if she didn’t take drastic action.

It was March 5, 2000, and the nearest medical facility was over 50 miles away. Perez’s husband, who had assisted with all of her previous births, was at a nearby cantina that had no phone. Neither did Perez. She knew that if there was any hope of this baby surviving, she was going to have to deliver him herself. “If my baby was going to die, then I decided I would have to die, too,” she told reporters. “But if he was going to grow up, I was going to see him grow up.”

Perez took several swigs from a bottle of hard liquor to dull the pain and grabbed a knife with a six-inch blade. She had no medical expertise, but she relied on her experience butchering animals to operate on herself. Instead of making the customary horizontal cut along the bikini line, she made three separate incisions in her abdomen, cutting vertically next to her belly button while squatting. Later, doctors would show that this technique kept her from damaging any of her internal organs—and likely kept her alive. After about an hour of grueling work, she was able to pull the baby boy out of her own womb. The baby began breathing immediately, and Perez grabbed a pair of scissors to cut his umbilical cord before falling unconscious.

Upon regaining consciousness, Perez wrapped her abdomen in a sweater and told one of her other children, six-year-old Benito, to ask for help in town. Benito returned with the local health aide, Leon Cruz, who sewed up Perez’s wound with an ordinary needle and thread. Cruz and another health worker helped transport Perez and her newborn, whom she named Orlando, to a hospital eight hours away. There, doctors were able to fully patch her up, 16 hours after Orlando’s birth.

The obstetricians at the hospital marveled at Perez’s self-administered surgery. She had no internal bleeding and no sepsis, and her uterus was behaving almost exactly as it would have been after an ordinary delivery. Those doctors would eventually publish Perez’s case study in the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, helping to bring well-deserved attention to the plight of women, like Perez, who live in remote locations and lack access to adequate medical care. The published study also gave Perez merited recognition as the only known woman to ever perform a cesarian section on herself where both the mother and the baby survived. Read on to learn about more medical recoveries that are practically too miraculous to be believed. Plus, for more just plain unbelievable medical tales, check out the book Germophobia from Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader.

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Originally Published on Reader's Digest