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Keywords:

  • parity status;
  • pelvis

Abstract

In the 40 years since the phrase ‘scars of parturition’ was coined, studies have attempted to show the relationship between scars on the bony pelvis and parity history. Despite numerous studies, the relationship of parity and scarring remains unclear. The challenge facing these studies is the rarity of skeletal collections of known parity. The alternative study approach is examining relationships between scars and factors other than pregnancy-related strains that may affect their manifestation.

Skeletal remains of 312 individuals were examined for scarring at the dorsal pubic surface, pubic tubercle, preauricular sulcus, interosseous groove and iliac tuberosity. Pelvic and femoral measurements were also taken. Features were compared according to sex and age. Principal components analysis was performed to assess the influence of body and pelvic size on scar manifestation.

Scars occurred in both sexes, although they were more common and more severe in females. Scar severity remained unchanged or increased with age in both sexes. Females had smaller bodies but larger pelves than males. The interspinous and transverse inlet diameters and the femur measurements increased with age. Principal components analysis showed that body and pelvic sizes represented the majority of the observed variation, with scars occurring more commonly in small-bodied individuals with large pelves, most of which were females. Both sexes also show a difference in the magnitude of scarring at the pubis and ilium.

These results suggest that weight-bearing and pelvic stability may be a better explanation for scarring than parturition-related strain. Female pelves are more flexible and require more ligamentous stabilization, causing increased scar formation. The weight-bearing strain on male pelves may sometimes also be sufficiently large to cause similar scars.

Future studies may be able to test this theory on samples of known parity history. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.