The evolution of pelvic canal shape and rotational birth in humans

Ekaterina Stansfield (Corresponding author), Barbara Fischer, Nicole Grunstra, Maria Villa Pouca, Philipp Mitteroecker

Publications: Contribution to journalArticlePeer Reviewed

Abstract

Background

The human foetus typically needs to rotate when passing through the tight birth canal because of the complex shape of the pelvis. In most women, the upper part, or inlet, of the birth canal has a round or mediolaterally oval shape, which is considered ideal for parturition, but it is unknown why the lower part of the birth canal has a pronounced anteroposteriorly oval shape.
Results

Here, we show that the shape of the lower birth canal affects the ability of the pelvic floor to resist the pressure exerted by the abdominal organs and the foetus. Based on a series of finite element analyses, we found that the highest deformation, stress, and strain occur in pelvic floors with a circular or mediolaterally oval shape, whereas an anteroposterior elongation increases pelvic floor stability.
Conclusions

This suggests that the anteroposterior oval outlet shape is an evolutionary adaptation for pelvic floor support. For the pelvic inlet, by contrast, it has long been assumed that the mediolateral dimension is constrained by the efficiency of upright locomotion. But we argue that the mediolateral elongation has evolved because of the limits on the anteroposterior diameter imposed by upright posture. We show that an anteroposteriorly deeper inlet would require greater pelvic tilt and lumbar lordosis, which compromises spine health and the stability of upright posture. These different requirements of the pelvic inlet and outlet likely have led to the complex shape of the pelvic canal and to the evolution of rotational birth characteristic of humans.
Original languageEnglish
Article number224
Number of pages11
JournalBMC Biology
Volume19
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 11 Oct 2021

Austrian Fields of Science 2012

  • 106006 Biophysics
  • 106012 Evolutionary research
  • 106056 Biological anthropology
  • 302022 Gynaecology

Keywords

  • BIOMECHANICAL PROPERTIES
  • BODY-SIZE
  • BONY PELVIS
  • Biomechanics
  • FLOOR DISORDERS
  • Human evolution
  • LUMBAR LORDOSIS
  • ORGAN PROLAPSE
  • Obstetrical dilemma
  • PREVALENCE
  • Pelvic floor
  • Pelvis
  • RISK-FACTORS
  • Rotational birth
  • SEXUAL-DIMORPHISM
  • Upright posture
  • WOMEN

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