This spring and summer 16 anthropologists from Australia, Canada, Britain, Germany, Italy, Korea, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, US and Vietnam travelled to 18 countries across Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and South America to get a true sense of the emotional, cultural and social conditions under which modern humans have lived, helped along by satellite photography of areas such as the contraceptive pill’s debut, abortion, sperms fertilising eggs, and nocturnal pregnancies. The researchers have now published their results in PNAS.
The researchers describe the stages of pregnancy, taking into account fertility cycles, age, how and where contraception, gynecological exams and modern maternity services are practiced, and of course the question of timing and physical well-being of offspring. They use estimated pregnancy risks using a 2004 US study on increasing maternal age and childbirth mortality rates to create a global “mortality curve” from the last 3,000 years.
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The description of the stages of pregnancy and pregnancy-related rituals, beliefs and practices is based on cultural, archaeological and archaeological linguistic research. There are clear regional differences. Those reading this who are currently not pregnant or considering becoming pregnant in the near future will note many “moral plights”, “mysteries” and “obstacles” in pregnancy related to ritual and regional customs. We expect science to settle these, but scientists should not miss the chance to share our work with those who experience and live our living.
• Andrew Myer is a south-east Asian archaeologist