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Skeletal Indicators of Pregnancy and Parturition: A Historical Review


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Douglas H. Ubelaker, Ph.D.
Department of Anthropology
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, DC 20560-0112


Abstract:  Over a century of scientific literature has documented the research and analysis relating to the possible skeletal evidence of pregnancy, parturition, and childcare, yet today, there still exists variation in methodology and interpretation. Historical perspective facilitates understanding of the growth and development of the theories and research currently available to the forensic science community. Review of the relevant literature clearly indicates that specific skeletal alterations are not exclusively connected to obstetrical events. Although parturition and related events have been shown to leave various alterations on bone, the research record also demonstrates that other factors can contribute to the same or similar changes. Additionally, such alterations can often be found in nulliparous women and men and are frequently absent in parous and multiparous women. This literature review calls for the continued exploration of skeletal alterations for determining parity status in human skeletal remains.