The risk is still quite small, but many developed countries have seen a dramatic rise in the number of Caesareans performed each year as more women elect to avoid a vaginal delivery.
Researchers, led by Catherine Deneux-Tharaux of the Maternite Hopital Tenon in Paris, looked at 65 maternal deaths recorded in the French National Perinatal Survey from 1996 to 2000.
All of the deaths followed births of a single child and were not due to conditions existing prior to delivery. The women had also not been hospitalized during pregnancy.
The researchers found that the risk of death -- from blood clots, infection or complications from anesthesia -- was 3.6 times higher for women who had Caesareans.
The risk of death after childbirth was increased whether or not the Caesarean was performed before the onset of labor or during labor.
The study was published in the September issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.
Although rates of maternal death in most developed countries are relatively low -- U.S. women have a 1 in 3,500 chance of pregnancy-related death -- the incidence of maternal mortality has not significantly decreased in the last two decades, according to American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.