Slitherin’ baby

Street Anatomy highlights the most frequently viewed medical animation ever: an illustration of the difficult path for childbirth. It’s too bad it doesn’t show the effect on the kid in much detail — our babies all came out with the most astonishingly pointy heads from all the squishing and squeezing, but they still ended up normal. Mostly. I think.


  1. says

    Marsupials rule. Being able to postpone birth to a more favourable date and giving birth to a very tiny being that will be able to grow in a pouch and gain independence progressively seems a very much better idea. Pointy heads… well well well.

  2. Jsn says

    Wow, you can almost feel the mother’s skin stretching and tearing. Looks like a safe, well-designed process for both mom and baby, doesn’t it? The way the head becomes constricted and contorted; the way Ob’s, many times, have to make an incision in the perineum to keep the vulva from ripping all the way to the anus. That God fellow is such a good designer…

  3. Prillotashekta says

    My wife was already dead-set against getting pregnant (with my support for that decision). This should completely seal the deal.

    A friend of my wife’s family recently gave birth. Her husband was present for the event. Afterwards, my father-in-law asked the husband about it.
    The husband replied:
    “Yeah, I saw it. And let me tell you… Intelligent design, my ass!”

  4. Bride of Shrek says

    That was almost beautiful, rather quick and I swear the kid was grinning. Funny though I didn’t hear the music whilst I was doing it (any of the three times). Mainly consisted of fifteen hours of puffing, screaming and swearing to rip my husband’s cods off if he ever got me pregnant again.

  5. Moses says

    Where was the screaming and yelling at the husband part? Because I quite well remember the screaming and yelling at the husband part…

  6. Bride of Shrek says

    But then again that’s my lot as a woman because of that bitch Eve tempting Adam with a friggin apple and starting the whole original sin thing. I must admit turning slightly religous during the experience but it was more along the lines of “Jesus, fucking Christ that hurts” kind of worship.

  7. Dianne says

    Heh. My thought was just the opposite: The animation only took one minute. The actual event takes an average of 17 hours the first time, 6 hours for subsequent attempts. Plus they didn’t show the blood. Or the bit where the cord wraps around the baby’s neck or the shoulder dystocia. In short, if you think this was scary, stay the heck away from OB wards because you’ll faint.

  8. Hank Fox says

    I watched that animation, and good lord! The woman has to push and breathe and scream AND play the cello?? I mean, the music accompanying the birth was beautiful, but … jeez.

  9. Azkyroth says

    Just out of curiosity, Dianne, how much of that time is divided between just the body’s preparation and the baby actually moving through the vagina? I’ve never been clear on that…

  10. Interrobang says

    I must confess to not having watched it. I can’t imagine why anyone would, frankly. Then again, I think it’s seriously weird that anyone actually goes through that voluntarily (as opposed to because they had to, or because the culture says it’s the done thing, or whatever).

    I’ve got the appropriate equipment, but I’m seriously considering Freecycling it. I’m not using it; it’s just taking up space, and I might be able to get something I actually want…

  11. KiwiInOz says

    As my wife said “They told me about the head, but they didn’t tell me about the @#$% shoulders!”.

  12. Angie says

    See, it was watching a film of childbirth in 9th grade that scared the daylights out of my 14-year old self to the extent that I had an elective caesarean when I had my child sixteen years later. I still don’t know if that was a good thing or not, but I know I’ve never regretted my decision.

    Also, a friend had just given birth vaginally to a baby that came out BUTT FIRST and folded over!! That wasn’t pretty.

  13. says

    Meh. I’ve had two homebirths sans medication, and yeah, it hurt like a sonofabitch, but I’m doing it again at the end of December. Neat animation, but too bad they were showing the standard obstetric presentation of mother-on-back, which is among the very, very least efficient ways to labor. I’d have been more impressed if they’d rotated it 90 degrees clockwise, so that the mother’s hips could properly flex and open up (as opposed to being far more fixed in place when she’s lying on her back). Childbirth is no more designed than any other part of nature, but if you let it progress the way evolution has intended — instead of insisting on all kinds of interventions like unnecessary inductions, drugs that make it so the woman doesn’t feel *anything* and necessitate lying on her back, bad positioning, etc etc etc, it usually goes pretty darned well.

    I’m sure I’ll get jumped on by the “Well, I *needed* my induction/epidural/c-section” crowd for saying this, but in the vast majority of cases, just letting birth go at its own pace is far safer than trying to intervene. Yes, infant mortality rates have gone down a ton in the last century… but mostly that’s because birth practitioners know they’re supposed to wash their hands, and the 5% of *necessary% c-sections mean that mothers no longer lose their babies and/or their lives if there genuinely is an issue that precludes a vaginal birth. If you look at infant and maternal mortality rates, the US (where the CS rate is nearly 30% in most areas) is far, far below countries where homebirths and un-intervened-in births are the norm. We kind of suck at the whole birth thing in the US.

    Sorry, bit of a soapbox issue there…

  14. Chris R. says

    our babies all came out with the most astonishingly pointy heads from all the squishing and squeezing, but they still ended up normal. Mostly. I think.

    The ones that don’t, I believe, are called “creationists”.

  15. says

    This is why they invented painkillers. And why the brain tends to block out trauma from our memories. The heck with “natural childbirth” – gimme the drugs. My first took 60 hours, and even after all that AND forceps, she had a perfectly round head. One soft spot on her skull smaller than a dime (she started life off hard-headed, obviously) so each time the pushing stopped, she slid right back up again. After that, a c-section for the second was a piece of cake. Neither one anything like that lovely little film.

  16. Rich says

    I was in the delivery room for the birth of my son. The labor and birth took 11 hours. He had a decidedly pointy skull, but I was so amazed by his beautiful, piercing blue eyes that I didn’t notice it until I saw the picture that the hospital took. It kind of freaked me out a bit. I still have a wallet sized copy of that picture. I show it to him when he gets too full of himself. At the age of 22 that will occasionally happen. ;-)

  17. Dianne says

    Azkyroth: “Only” about 1-2 of the hours involved are dedicated to the second stage of labor, aka pushing the baby out. On average. The rest are the cervix dilating to the point that the 11 cm head can fit through the 10 cm cervix. Yep, there’s still a mismatch, but it is possible…if the head is tucked just right. In my experience, the early, dilating contractions are somewhat more painful than having a fingernail ripped off*, but there is reason to suspect that my experience was not typical.

    *Yes, I do know what that feels like.

  18. says

    I was born with such a squashed-in pointy head that my dad burst into tears and exclaimed, “my son is a retard, what will I do”? He was amazed a couple of hours later when I looked more normal.

  19. Dr. Steve says

    I was impressed with the presentation of this stylized birth – that is the sort of archetype birth that medical students are trained to expect (and which only sometime happens). Note the vertex presentation with the neck flexed so the smallest diameter of the head (the biparietal diameter) can come through, the delivery of the posterior shoulder first, etc.

    I will say that once the anterior shoulder comes out, you should fast-forward the animation since the rest of the body shoots out in what can be a challenging game of “catch” for the latex-gloved practitioner.

  20. LM says

    Bring it ON! Only 5.5 weeks!

    Did I mention I’m doing the natural childbirth thing? Oh yeah. No epidural for me. Just give me a stick to bite on!

  21. says

    That animation lies!! My stomach never had the shrinky-dink qualities that this animated mother had!! ;)

    My first baby was a 54 hour labor – no joke. And, she’s taken her sweet time ever since.

    Second baby was an emergency C-section, which sucked enough to make me have two, VBAC’s. Third baby was 8 hours, zero cm to delivery. I got cocky with my last child and was under the impression that the labor would go really fast. Nope. Thirty-six hours of pitocin induced hell and a near death experience later, he decided to grace us with his presense. I’m not all that sure that walking up-right is enough of a bonus for me to accept the effects it had on labor and delivery.

  22. says

    You know that G. Gordon Liddy thing where he held his hand in a flame to prove how tough he was? That was nothing, once you’ve seen a woman give birth.

    (My wife made it through three with only minimal drugs — I think she had some locals for the really rough bits. I am but a weak, frail worm in comparison.)

  23. LM says

    @ 19: I’m with you. There is no way in hell I’m going to let them tether me to a hospital bed. I want to MOVE.

    Really, the pain is the last thing I’m worried about.

  24. Rich says

    My wife (at the time) was expecting drugs of some kind. But when we got there, her doctor was not on call. The doctor that we had available did not believe in drugs during childbirth. In fact, during the labor, she cursed him out so badly that he actually left the delivery room. He told her to do it herself. I’m not kidding. I had to go out and apologise to him and plead with him to come back in.

    Conversation with the wife went like this:

    Me: I’m right here honey.

    Her: HOLD ME.
    Me: I’m holding your hand dear.

    She had to have an episiotomy and I’m guessing that at that point she barely felt it. After my son was born she was given a shot of someting that changed her mood a bit.

    She looked at me and said (and I quote):

    “Honey, let’s make another one. Right now. Right here.”

    That was about when they yanked out the afterbirth.

    I have one son. That was fine for both of us.

  25. Rich says

    I’ll say one thing more. While I do not believe in a god, the closest that I have ever come to what I think might be a religious feeling is looking at my son mere seconds after he was born.

    I would not trade that moment for anything in the world.

    It was wonderful. It stays with me to this day.

  26. says

    Pointy head? Shucks, a pointy head is nuffin’ — after 35 hours of back-labor, my second kid had pointy EARS! We always attributed it to watching Star Trek reruns during early labor…

    One thing about back-labor; it makes anything else pale in comparison. “Oh yeah, this f-ing hurts, but it’s not as bad as back-labor!” Especially 35 hours of such, and then delivering a 9 lb 9 oz kid who chest was even larger than his head! (I am not a big woman, either.)

    Intelligent design, my ass.

  27. truth machine says

    I’m glad I’m a man, and I’m glad I was too young to remember that experience now.

    Yeah, good thing you weren’t older when you were born.

  28. Dianne says

    Rich: Your OB must be insane! Has anyone murdered him for being a complete jerk yet or is that still something for him to look forward to? Or did he manage to kill someone by providing inadequate care and get his license pulled before anyone got it together to put him out of who knows how many women’s misery?

  29. says

    Rich: Your OB must be insane! Has anyone murdered him for being a complete jerk yet or is that still something for him to look forward to?

    Hear, hear.

    If anyone important like that walked out on us at a time like that, I’d strangle the fucker and stick him in a supply closet.

    Oh, I’m sorry. Was that out loud?

  30. Arnosium Upinarum says

    Considering this, it is utterly bewildering that there is anything like an overpopulation of humans. To think that there are over 6 billions alive now who squeezed their way out of their mothers into the world on over 6 billion separate occassions…oh dear, I feel really faint

  31. Josh says

    Oh my god. Despite the clean and cartoony nature of that video, my jaw dropped and I could only say one thing: c-section. Screw natural birth, why squeeze them out like that now if you can avoid it.

  32. RP says

    Jumpin’ jeebus, and people wonder why I’m childfree. Thank you, science, for effective contraception!

  33. Anton Mates says

    Oh my god. Despite the clean and cartoony nature of that video, my jaw dropped and I could only say one thing: c-section. Screw natural birth, why squeeze them out like that now if you can avoid it.

    Good lord, have you seen a c-section? With the cutting and the blood and the shoving internal organs out of the way so you can reach through and cut some more and…ick. Ick. It significantly raises (like, triples) your chances of having severe medical problems during subsequent births, as well.

    Much better to adopt. Then you can screen out the ugly kids!

  34. Kseniya says

    Arno, I think the population problem a testament to the overpowering need to get laid. Repeatedly. There’s a horse-cart aspect to the claim that if the population continues to grow unchecked, the human race is fucked.

    “Honey, let’s make another one. Right now. Right here.”

    OMG… That’s a pretty damned funny story, Rich.

    At this point in my life, I’m a dedicated nullipara, though I expect that to change sometime during the next ten or so years.

    Best wishes, LM, let us know how it goes. Make sure that stick is hard rubber, or rawhide.

  35. Dianne says

    Good lord, have you seen a c-section?

    Yeah. Abdominal surgery: not pretty. I’ve always rather regretted that I didn’t see mine, though. It would have been fun to see where the critter had been developing all that time…

    Best wishes, LM, let us know how it goes. Make sure that stick is hard rubber, or rawhide.

    Seconded. Some women come through labor thinking “no sweat.” But they are the minority.

  36. Arnosium Upinarum says

    Kseniya: Oh, sure. Repeatedly. Demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt just how powerful that drive is, that so effectively disables any perception of consequent risk.

    The “claim” that “if the population continues to grow unchecked, the human race is fucked” doesn’t require any “horse-cart aspect” consideration to be true or not. The reasons for overpopulation are relatively irrelevant. The potential CONSEQUENCES of an ever-increasing population of consumers on a decidedly finite world with finite resources and living space that other species require to keep it all tolerably livable obviously ARE. And they’re not very pretty. – arno

  37. Arnosium Upinarum says

    Oh, btw, PZ? That “G. Gordon Liddy thing”? Just for the record. Actually, it was snuffing flaming matches out with his fingers, saying, “The trick is in NOT MINDING that it hurts”.

    I’ve seen that political myth repeatedly reported as original to him. It fits his er, style, of course. But it’s not original to him. See Peter O’Toole do it early in film “Lawrence of Arabia”.

    Considering that the reports of Liddy’s use of the “trick” use almost the same exact wording for the er…justification, in answer to the question, “What’s the trick?”, Liddy almost certainly stole it from the movie OR the myth propagated from an initial false report by someone who applied it to Liddy that subsequently grew into a myth in the retelling. I don’t know if it was original to the movie, but the film predates the reported occurrences attributed to Liddy in his later er…career.

  38. Owlmirror says post of the month, some years ago:

    Humans are bad at giving birth.

    Very, very bad. The only way to truly appreciate how ill-done-by our species has been in this respect is to watch other mammals go at it. Dogs? Except for the breeds that humans have artificially distorted into odd shapes, the puppies practically fall out of the mother’s womb. Same thing with cats. Baby chimpanzees are practically pulling themselves out by the mother’s leg hair as soon as they get their heads and arms out of the birth canal. Horses? The long legs can be tricky, but again the foal nine times out of ten just slides right out. And let’s not get started on the dodge that the marsupial branch of the family has developed. Lazy bastards. They deliver babies the size of jelly beans and let them do the rest of their growing once they’re safely on the other side of the mother’s pelvic arch.