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Evidence of Birth Trauma Etched Into Ancient Female

When you envision your labor you might have this perfect plan for how things are going to work out. Unfortunately things might not progress as smoothly as you had anticipated and complications may arise that leave some damage.

Birth trauma is a term that has been talked a lot about more in recent years describing any lasting physical or emotional damage left from childbirth. It can include PTSD, anxiety or more of the physical manifestations such as tissue, bone or joint damage.

Birth trauma has been an experience that has dated back to our ancestors over 4 million years ago. New evidence has recently uncovered a human skeleton over 2000 years old that shows pelvic damage.

In the most recent issue of New Science magazine they share that evidence of birth trauma is hard to find. Last year Jeremy DeSilva at Boston University used estimates of neonatal hominin body mass to suggest that childbirth first became difficult around 4 million years ago. Yet, Susan Pfeiffer from the University of Toronto in Canada, has now found an example of stress injury to the pelvis in the skeleton of a 2000-year-old female found in South Africa.

Human birth canals are nearly identical to the size of a newborn head so natural variations may mean some women have a pelvis that may be too small for childbirth. With the 2000-year-old skeleton it showed that her pelvis was unusually narrow, which appears to have led to injury to the pubic symphysis (joint running down the pelvic bone) during childbirth.

“Resulting deterioration of her joints probably caused a lot of pain, yet she stayed active,” Pfeiffer said. “This suggests that her group had knowledge of pain-numbing substances.”

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source: NewScientist
image adapted from: Lars Plougmann via Flickr

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