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This article discusses the morphology of Homo erectus, and a historical overview of Homo erectus Discoveries, including the way that Human Birth has evolved over the years. The article also discusses the Technological and Population Trends in Homo erectus and some Continuing Uncertainties like Assisted Birthing.
According to the authors, “the Homo erectus was the first hominid to expand into new regions of the Old World. As a species, H. Erectus existed over 1 million years.” (Rosenberg, Karen R., Trevathan, Wenda R 2003) The history of the behavioral pattern of this species, and the morphological changes the species has undergone, show that childbirth complications and difficulties have been a source of worry and challenge for human begins and their ancestors, as far back as the Homo erectus for millions of years. Thus, the fact that humans now seek the assistance of midwives and doctors during childbirth, probably has similar ancient roots.
In March 2000, Sophia Pedro a woman living in Mozambique was forced to give birth to her child on a tree during the worst floods that ravaged the southern part of her country. She had survived the flood by staying on the tree to avoid the raging flood which killed over 700 people. “Treetop delivery rooms are unusual for humans but not for other primate species. For millions of years, primates have secluded themselves in treetops or bushes to give birth. Human beings are the only primate species that regularly seek assistance during labor and delivery.” (Rosenberg, Karen R., Trevathan, Wenda R 2003) This trend of seeking medical assistance during childbirth is as a result of the inherent risk and difficulties that arise during human birth.
As many human mothers know, it is a very difficult task to push a baby through the birth canal. This difficulty and pain are probably as a result of human intelligence, and the fact that we have a large brain. Peter T. Ellison noted that “human beings have exceptionally big heads relative to the size of their bodies, and those who have delved deeper into the subject know that the opening in the human pelvis through which the baby must pass is limited in size by our upright posture.” (Rosenberg, Karen R., Trevathan, Wenda R 2003)
In recent years though, anthropologists have started to realize that for more than 100,000 years, human beings have been troubled by the complications involved in the journey that human babies make through the birth canal during delivery.
“Fossil clues also indicate that anatomy, not just our social nature, has led human mothers in contrast to our closest primate relatives and almost all other mammal’s–to ask for help during childbirth. Indeed, this practice of seeking assistance may have been in place when the earliest members of our genus, Homo, emerged and may possibly date back to five million years ago, when our ancestors first began to walk upright on a regular basis.” (Rosenberg, Karen R., Trevathan, Wenda R 2003)
If we trace back in history we would probably get to a point when childbirth was not as difficult and complicated as it is today. Although human beings are quite closely related to apes genetically, apes probably are better models for birth in pre-human primates.
These days, there is a need for physical and emotional support for women during childbirth, and the desire for such physical and emotional support might well be as ancient as humanity itself.
Rosenberg, Karen R., Trevathan, Wenda R (2003) The evolution of Human Birth Scientific American Special Edition.