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Prior to the 20th century, birth could only safely be achieved by vaginal delivery of the fetus. This natural process was accompanied by high mortality rates for both mothers and infants. The development of safe abdominal delivery was one of a series of interventions that led to dramatic falls in maternal and perinatal mortality in high-income countries in the 20th century. Today, lack of access to safe caesarean delivery is a major global public health problem, and provision of the procedure in low-income settings is a key element of programmes aimed at reducing the substantial proportion of the global burden of death and disability that follows pregnancy complications.
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