Primate pelvic anatomy and implications for birth

Bibliographic Collection: 
CARTA-Inspired Publication
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Trevathan, W.
Year of Publication: 2015
Journal: Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci
Volume: 370
Issue: 1663
Number: 1663
Pagination: 20140065
Date Published: 03/2015
Publication Language: eng
Accession Number: 25602069
Keywords: birth, Evolution, obstetric dilemma, pelvis, primate

The pelvis performs two major functions for terrestrial mammals. It provides somewhat rigid support for muscles engaged in locomotion and, for females, it serves as the birth canal. The result for many species, and especially for encephalized primates, is an 'obstetric dilemma' whereby the neonate often has to negotiate a tight squeeze in order to be born. On top of what was probably a baseline of challenging birth, locomotor changes in the evolution of bipedalism in the human lineage resulted in an even more complex birth process. Negotiation of the bipedal pelvis requires a series of rotations, the end of which has the infant emerging from the birth canal facing the opposite direction from the mother. This pattern, strikingly different from what is typically seen in monkeys and apes, places a premium on having assistance at delivery. Recently reported observations of births in monkeys and apes are used to compare the process in human and non-human primates, highlighting similarities and differences. These include presentation (face, occiput anterior or posterior), internal and external rotation, use of the hands by mothers and infants, reliance on assistance, and the developmental state of the neonate.


Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 2015 Mar 5. 370:20140065. 10.1098/rstb.2014.0065