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Natural Instinct; child birth


HydrogenBond
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I would like to discuss one aspect of natural instinct; child birth. Child birth is something even an animal with a walnut sized brain can do very successfully. But when it come to humans, social education appears to cause this instinct to atrophy in favor of a social rendition.

 

In other words, if one goes to a third or fourth world culture, where education is slight, birth is still a very natural process. In the first world cultures, women are trading in their natural instincts for the latest birthing fads. They take classed to teach them how to breath properly, etc. In fact, only a small percentage of modern cultural women trust their instincts enough to avoid the latest birthing fads. It is like culture is trying hard to atrophy natural instincts rather than helping to define them.

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In other words, if one goes to a third or fourth world culture, where education is slight, birth is still a very natural process. In the first world cultures, women are trading in their natural instincts for the latest birthing fads.
One must be careful to avoid an unsupported conclusion that a culture where formal (eg: reading, writing, and arithmetic) is slight, informal education about such subjects as farming, sexuality, and childbirth must also be slight, or that women in these cultures are more guided by “instinctive” behavior than learned.

 

From the study of primates, particularly great apes (chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, etc.) we know that a female animal with anatomy and social behavior similar to that of humans, unless allowed to learn about it by witnessing childbirth and infant care in members of her community, usually is very bad at it. These poor animals may be frightened by pregnancy and labor, behaving irrationally as a result, often reject their newborn infants, and may develop long-term “psychiatric” disorders. Zookeepers have learned that, to assure successful reproduction of the most human-like, and many other species, they must be allowed to live in a natural community setting that permits “education” about the reproductive process to occur.

 

Although ethical and practical issues limit the availability of similar studies of humans, isolated accounts by women raised in social isolation, even with the benefit of substantial formal education, reveal similar patterns of reproductive dysfunction. For example, in the most economically advanced countries, a small but appalling number of mothers in situations of desperate social stress and isolation leave their newborn offspring to die in isolated locations, such as trash dumpsters and roadside woods. Others develop aberrant behavior commonly labeled “postpartum depression”, and may withdraw from participation in infant care, or even harm or kill their children. Nearly identical behaviors have been observed in socially stressed primates.

 

In short, it appears that human beings and their close relative species almost completely lacking a childbirth “instinct”, and must learn how. It does not appear that such instincts have “atrophied” due to culture, but rather that the way reproductive skill are learned in some cultures is less obvious to an outsider than it is in others – or even to the men of that culture – than it is in others.

 

The informal education available to many women in third world cultures (“women’s circles”, etc.) are often unavailable to women in first world cultures. “Birthing classes”, such as Lamaze, appear to offer replacement sources of this important education. Although such classes may appear silly and faddish when compared to their more informal third world counterparts, the learning they facilitate are certainly not.

 

:hihi: Ridiculing or discouraging reproductive education, formal or informal, in the belief that, without this education, women would instinctively know how to deliver and care for their children, is IMHO contradicted by scientific evidence, and has the potential to put women and infants at increased risk or injury and death.

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I was not trying to single out women or child birth but was using this as an example of natural instinct versus socially modified instinct. In other forum topics I have proposed the idea of natural instincts. This is not new but most people seem to think instinct is relative and natural instinct is not real. This may be a sign of the times with culture modifying natural instinct to where most people just assume it no longer exists.

 

In my experience, something like instinct, which has slowly evolved over millions of years can not just be shut off, in one or two generations of social experts. This should create a split in the human psyche. The result in modern times is a whole new range of disorders, that have been created by culture, in its attempt to change natural instinct into something artificial. Everyone seems to grasp natural food versus unnnatural food but natural versus unnatural instinct goes right over everyone's head, with every attempt made to prevent pointing out what is natural, as thought unnatural is a political position or religion. I think the bottom line is unnatural instinct creates many more jobs and so-called experts and give free reign to unnatural behavior and is therefore considered of higher value. An irrational state of mind would draw such a conclusion; irrational due to the repression of natural instinct.

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What I see from my limited exposure to the birthing process is that people are so scared to death of making any type of mistake that any little hiccup in the process is viewed as an abnormality and medicine must take over for nature.

 

My last son was born by emergency c section. His head was lodged against Shannon's pelvic bone, and he just was not coming out that way despit about 30 minutes of game effort. In talking to the Doctor who delivered the baby about 10-15% of her deliveries were c sections for one reason or another. And this may well be a typical number.

 

One of my sisters has had 3 children. All of them at home delivered by a midwife. The midwife has delivered hundreds of children, and has had just a couple isolated cases where the baby needed to be delivered by c section.

 

So what is the difference? Why is it that there is a different success rate between the two? Is it because the midwife screens her clients eliminating herself from dealing with "problem" pregnancies? Or is she just more skilled at guiding a woman through the birthing process, partly because she does not have the luxury of falling back on a c section as a fail-safe?

 

I think it is both. And I think there is one more thing that is telling in the nature of childbirth when comparing different parts of the world. It is VERY rare for a woman to die in child birth in the more medically advanced countries anymore. This used to be a far more common event than it is today. Medical science has found ways of monitoring the process, and making it safer for mom and baby. But the flip side is that traits in woman that were conducive to poor deliver, that used to cause them to die in the process are no longer an issue. So as our medicine improves, we as a species become more reliant upon it. It is an area where humans are activly evolving, and may be one of the reasons that you see a difference between ease of birth in countries with differing medical advances.

 

Bill

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In other forum topics I have proposed the idea of natural instincts.... most people seem to think instinct is relative and natural instinct is not real. This may be a sign of the times with culture modifying natural instinct to where most people just assume it no longer exists.
Unfortunately you've picked another example that does a pretty good job of disproving your theories.

 

The notion that somehow childbirth in the "third or fourth world" is "instinctual" is utter hogwash. Its not like a woman in the throes of birth is left alone in her mud hut and just "knows" how to breathe and bear down is disproven by simply visiting the third world (not that you'd ever do that, but you could read some books about it!). The activities of professional midwives in the first world practicing natural childbirth (something I know you would look upon dismissively as an example of "unnatural"), are the same in form to that in the third world, they just have access to all the backups and procedures that in the third world lead to the death or disability of the child, the mother or both. It DOES take a community to have a child.

 

I can tell you all about the instincts, and I can assure you that that poor woman in the mud hut would go for an epidural if she could get it. But at least she has her mom and her sister and the old woman of the village who knows all the tricks.

 

You're a smart guy Hydro, but you really need to do some research before you say things that lower the esteem we would all otherwise have for you.

 

Knowledge is power,

Buffy

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Child birth is an example where human and science intervention allows us to supersede natural instinct. This is progressive instinct. But this is not the case with all our instincts. Humans can also regress instincts to below natural. For example, marketing can make people eat lots of junkfood leading to regressive affects on the health instead of progressive affects.

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Child birth is an example where human and science intervention allows us to supersede natural instinct.
Can you provide any scientifically supportable evidence that a human or a closely related primate female who has not be taught how knows how to successfully give birth and preserve the newborn’s life? Current best evidence indicates that, without some sort of training, women are not able to do this, and will react to pregnancy, labor, and birth as they would an illness, abandoning their infant after birth.
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Third World mothers simply don't have access to all the medical fads surrounding birth, otherwise they would have gone for it.

 

The other thing discounting your hypothesis is that mother deaths, mother-and-child deaths and child deaths during (or because of) birth is much, much higher in the Third World than the developed world.

 

Our biggest problem with the birth process is our hard-headed insistence on walking on only two legs. We've been so hard-headed about this trendy posture for so long, that we've warped our hips to accomodate it. And our hipbones places a limit on physical things like head size - our heads can either get to a certain size, or our hipbones must evolve to somehow let bigger heads through. Walking upright have made giving birth more dangerous. But luckily we have medics and all the fads that surround giving birth to help us through, so we don't have to rush back to the trees just yet.

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Our biggest problem with the birth process is our hard-headed insistence on walking on only two legs. We've been so hard-headed about this trendy posture for so long, that we've warped our hips to accomodate it.
Its just we girls. We note that stooped posture and knuckle dragging persists among some of you Neandertals... :sun:
But luckily we have medics and all the fads that surround giving birth to help us through, so we don't have to rush back to the trees just yet.
And epidurals! Whew!

 

Wide pelvis but uncooperative kid,

Buffy

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Here is something to think about. Modern childbirth is an improvement from old time natural childbirth, in that it leads to better mortality rates for both the mother and child. But if one looks at natural childbirth, the higher mortality rates implies selective advantage shifting females and babies toward those more capable of natural birth (we lose the one's who can't adapt so easily). With modern science, there is no need for selective childbirth advantage, since it can be compensated for. The result should be more and more women no longer capable of natural childbirth, making the instinct more and more dependant on science.

 

In other words, if we had a natural birthing competition between USA and a poor fourth world country (and in this corner..), where we randonly pick 1000 from each, the poor country would win because of selective advantage. If we shift the competition to the USA, so the medical community can get involved with both, the fourth world team would cost less. Maybe natural instinct is still better than progressive, since it require less prosthesis.

 

Can you provide any scientifically supportable evidence that a human or a closely related primate female who has not be taught how knows how to successfully give birth and preserve the newborn’s life? Current best evidence indicates that, without some sort of training, women are not able to do this, and will react to pregnancy, labor, and birth as they would an illness, abandoning their infant after birth.

 

For one thing humans are social animals. Little girls often play with dolls practicing their motherly instincts from early childhood. It is almost like a kitten practicing hunting with a ball of yarn. Many girls seem take to it like a fish to water. Watching mother with baby brother helps the learning process. Many girls do not have to be school in doll mothering. They jus tlook and copy because the instinct is there and only needs data. When she is an adolescent she is warned about what boys want and the pregnacy result that may occur. If she gets knocked-up (next time when you and your boyfriend fight, have him knock you.. down), she feels the changes in the body and the little thing growing and kicking. A mother knows it is a child inside of her and not an alien. Birth is not something one decides, "I don't want to do it until after the summer". It going to happen when the time is right. The labor and release may be part of what builds the instant connection between mother and child. Her childood learning will help her to nurse the child. But she still needs to call in the experts; mother and grandma, to help her get comfortable with the ever changing needs of being a mom.

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...But if one looks at natural childbirth, the higher mortality rates implies selective advantage shifting females and babies toward those more capable of natural birth...Maybe natural instinct is still better than progressive, since it require less prosthesis.
That of course is Eugenics, Hydro. Technology-assisted childbirth costs more than natural childbirth, but needs to be wighed against all those moms and babies who would otherwise die. Want to put a value on that and do a cost-benefit analysis? Maybe its "cheaper"!

 

I personally don't want to live in a world where the survival benefit of ability to survive natural childbirth becomes important again: say post-apocalypse...

 

Technology is evolution,

Buffy

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Can you provide any scientifically supportable evidence that a human or a closely related primate female who has not be taught how knows how to successfully give birth and preserve the newborn’s life? Current best evidence indicates that, without some sort of training, women are not able to do this, and will react to pregnancy, labor, and birth as they would an illness, abandoning their infant after birth.
For one thing humans are social animals. Little girls often play with dolls practicing their motherly instincts from early childhood. It is almost like a kitten practicing hunting with a ball of yarn. Many girls seem take to it like a fish to water. Watching mother with baby brother helps the learning process. Many girls do not have to be school in doll mothering.
I asked for evidence that a female who has not been taught knows how to successfully give birth and preserve the newborn’s life. You have provided anecdotal evidence that females are taught how. Note that, in the context I intended, “teaching” is not confined to a formal school setting, but includes things taught to a child by parent, elders, or peers.
They jus tlook and copy because the instinct is there and only needs data.
The claim that human being have an instinct to “look and copy” is substantially different from the claim that they have an instinct for a particular behavior that does not require “looking and copying.”

 

The belief that humans possess an innate, instinctual knowledge of how to give birth and care for infants is, in my opinion and according to all the credible scientific data I’ve read, a misconception that has profound educational and social consequences, and is within the mission of a science advocacy forum to dispel. Therefore, HydrogenBond, please don’t dismiss my question by answering another. I repeat: Can you provide any scientifically supportable evidence that a human or a closely related primate female who has not be taught how knows how to successfully give birth and preserve the newborn’s life?

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I repeat: Can you provide any scientifically supportable evidence that a human or a closely related primate female who has not be taught how knows how to successfully give birth and preserve the newborn’s life?

I think that this is an excellent question. And I would open it to anyone to provide such an example beyond the anecdotal. The only example I can think of is "The Blue Lagoon". But that doesn't count.

 

Bill

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  • 3 years later...

Hydrogenbond: "I would like to discuss one aspect of natural instinct; child birth. Child birth is something even an animal with a walnut sized brain can do very successfully. But when it come to humans, social education appears to cause this instinct to atrophy in favor of a social rendition. "

 

Very true, and post industrialized societies are now medically obsessed with pain free birth which is synonymous with a birth without the basic functioning senses. You yourself a human, put science aside for a second, just imagine giving birth with your whole body numb from the waist down, that's alot more challenging than expecting to perform any physiological feat for that matter without the ability to feel your whole bottom half ! Rather than allowing the birthing woman to have access to the natural cocktail or plethora of hormonal pain inhibitors (oxytocin), as well as adrenaline for the final push, which by the way demands an environment where mother is protected from having her big or neo cortical brain stimulated. What a laboring woman needs for a natural fetus ejection reflex ( look it up) to transpire is a safe, warm and barely lit environment ( light and visuals are the greatest stimulants of neo-cortex) with no expectation for speech or explanation of any kind.

One of the reasons human birth has become difficult and so discussed compared to that of other mammals is precisely that huge development in homo sapiens, the neocortex. It was developed for the intellect , not the thousands of years of birthing which was already set in place, obviously or we wouldn't still be here as a species.

 

" for obvious reasons it is difficult to obtain precise information on how women gave birth in preliterate societies. However we must constantly bear in mind from a physiological perspective, there are only two obligatory actors in the birth drama: mother and baby. The presence of a third person cannot be considered a basic need. There has been a phase in the history of humanity when women used to isolate themselves when giving birth like ALL mammals. This is confirmed by a great diversity of documents, such as films among the Eipos in New Guinea, written documents about the !Kung San and other pre-agricultural societies and word of mouth reports from Amazonian ethnic groups transmitted in particular by the brazilian midwife anthropologist Heloisa Lessa...... Michel Odent. Obstetrician The Functions of the Orgasms. 2009; p. 23

So the question, how can we maintain the technologically advanced medical practices as they are without relying on them to take center stage in birth ?

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