Even before anesthesia and sterile technique became widespread and available, people were attempting c-sections for obstructed labor. The first successful c-section in the united states was performed in 1794, at the request of a woman, Elizabeth Bennett, who (probably rightfully) believed that continuing her labor would kill both her and child. The first physician she asked refused to do it on ethical grounds, and her husband, also a physician, was the one to actually do the section. Perhaps miraculously, she and the baby survived. http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2009/01/dayintech_0114
Medical professionals in resource poor situations are always working to innovate and come up with ways to improve outcomes for their patients. I don't think there is a need to romanticize punching a hole in a placenta previa and performing an internal podalic version and breech extraction as Vraow Schrader once did. (Not risk free: risk of hemmorhage killing mother, child, or both, risk of uterine rupture which would be fatal without surgery. But doing nothing would have proven fatal as well.) I imagine that these doctors and midwives already are aware of "pre-technology" or "technology light" methods for dealing with many obstetric difficulties; many of these professionals are from the region they practice in.
The reality that access to medical care is unequally distributed is also the reason why low dose oral misoprostol has been studied as a labor induction agent: because it is inexpensive and shelf stable, and there are cases where an induction can be life saving. http://apps.who.int/rhl/pregnancy_childbirth/induction/CD000941_abdel-aleemh_com/en/
An excellent (but occasionally graphic) blog about practicing medicine, particularly obstetrics, in a resource poor area is Jeevan Kuruvilla's The Learner. http://jeevankuruvilla.blogspot.com/
I think most people can agree that the most pressing matter is making safe care accessible to more people. This problem is unlikely to be solved with "historical knowledge" because it is a systemic issue rather than a case by case problem.
Edited by cyclamen - 1/21/14 at 4:27pm