Sunday, October 9, 2011 - 0 comments

The Evolution of Human Birth : 5. Childbirth across Cultures

By : Karen R. Rosenberg and Wenda R. Trevathan

SQUATTING is one of the most typical positions for
women to give birth in non-Western cultures.
THE COMPLICATED CONFIGURATION of the human birth canal is such that laboring women and their babies benefit—by lower rates of mortality, injury and anxiety— from the assistance of others. This evolutionary reality helps to explain why attended birth is a near universal feature of human cultures. Individual women throughout history have given birth alone in certain circumstances, of course. But much more common is the attendance of familiar friends and relatives, most of whom are women. (Men may be variously forbidden, tolerated, welcomed or even required at birth.) In Western societies, where women usually give birth in the presence of strangers, recent research on birth practices has also shown that a doula—a person who provides social and emotional support to a woman in labor—reduces the rate of complications.

In many societies, a woman may not be recognized as an adult until she has had a baby. The preferred location of the delivery is often specified, as are the positions that the laboring women assume. The typical expectation in Western culture is that women should give birth lying flat on their backs on a bed, but in the rest of the world the most prevalent position for the delivery is upright—sitting, squatting or, in some cases, standing.

Next : Growing Bigger Brains


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