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Birth, Evolutionary Perspective

A critical time in the human life cycle is the moment of birth, when like other mammals, a human fetus makes the transition from living inside its mother’s womb, connected to her and nourished through the placenta, to living outside her body as an infant, fed initially on her milk and later on other foods. Mortality for humans during birth (for both infants and their mothers) is relatively high compared with other times in the life cycle and has almost certainly been high throughout human evolution.

It is not surprising that this risky event is marked by a wide range of rituals in all cultures. This entry takes an evolutionary approach to the birth process to discuss how birth in humans differs from birth in other ...

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