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Abstract

Human parturition is compared to that of other primates with the view to critically examining Trevathan's (1987, 1988) hypothesis that human beings require a midwife during parturition because of unique human physical and physiological traits. The supposed vast differences, both biological and social, between human childbirth and nonhuman primate parturition are questioned, using historical, ethnographic and fossil data. It is concluded that many of the complications associated with the human birth process may be the result of the Western practice of giving birth lying down, and that a midwife is not an obligatory adjunct to childbirth.

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