The Labor Market

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Slice of life: Despite the risks, large numbers of women are opting for C-sections to avoid birth pain and to control the date of their baby's arrival

Expectant parents, spare a thought for Mrs. Jacob Nufer, who in 1500 found herself in agonizing labor. More than a dozen midwives of the Swiss town where she lived had tended to her for days, with no sign of the baby. Facing the likelihood of losing mother and child, and in the absence of any surgeons, Mrs. Nufer's husband, a swine gelder, decided to cut her open and extricate his offspring. Because there had, at this time, been no known incidence of a woman surviving such a procedure, the couple would have said what were assumed to be their...

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