Take the 2-minute tour ×
Biology Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for biology researchers, academics, and students. It's 100% free, no registration required.

When humans give birth, more than often medical assistance is needed. Others gather around and frantically look for any way to help. But when an animal gives birth, it is usually seen as a moment where you give the female its space and let the birth occur naturally and without any assistance. The animal is of course in serious pain just as a female human but this is more than often not taken into account. Why is it that animal births are not taken as seriously?

share|improve this question
3  
When you say "seen", do you mean "seen by humans" or "seen by animals of the same species"? That is, is your question one of human psychology, or of animal behavior? –  Oreotrephes Jul 28 '13 at 3:09
1  
I don't thing you can generalize this broadly. There are human societies where the women generally give birth alone. But more importantly, "animals" is a big group. Some animals that bear live young labor extensively, but others don't (e.g., kangaroo). And some others have external fertilization so there is no labor at all. –  KennyPeanuts Jul 30 '13 at 12:27

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Our heads are bigger.

There's some debate on the issue, but in essence, human brains, and therefore heads, are very large relative to our body size. This is handy for all the intelligent things we like to do, but can be rather painful during birth. Because we walk upright, the size of a newborn's head is actually a non-trivial fact during the birthing process. There are two major implications.

The first is that human birth hurts. You can watch the birth of other animals and they seem to brush it off, but for humans, forcing that huge head through a relatively small birth canal is difficult. Evolution has (supposedly) limited the size of the hips because, while that would allow an easier birthing process, it would negatively impact our ability to walk. As such, it has to hurt.

Secondly, in order to make the process easier, humans rotate during birth. The end result is that, unlike even other closely related primates, humans come out backward in a way that is very difficult for a birthing female to attend to. This almost requires having another person or two on hand to help out. This would, of course, be a huge reinforcement for social connections.

A few books I know of touch on this. Up From Dragons deals with the brain size/hip size issue and The Invisible Sex talks about rotation during the birthing process and the social implications.

share|improve this answer

And, if your question pertains to "seen by animals of the same species", there are at least anecdotal accounts of animal-assisted births, as in this case of a "monkey midwife".

The linked article also mentions another feature of "social" births, which is that it can might help juvenile females learn.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.