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Pregnancy In The Stone Age - Can We Learn Something?

Pregnant women during the Stone Age are at greater risk than today's mothers. There is no way to control the bleeding or infection; Caesarea section is not optional. That we survive as a species looks incredible - until you dig a little deeper.

Pregnancy outcomes depend on maternal health, nutrition before and during pregnancy and the threat of infection. In all these areas women 50,000 years ago were better than their counterparts today. How is it possible at an age when there are no pipes, no medical treatment and no protection from infectious diseases?

Better diet, better pregnancy

Primitive women's diets are less likely to lack essential nutrients than young girls today. (Ref 1) A study from the University of Cincinnati Medical Center confirmed preliminary reports that pregnant and adult women consumed too little iron, zinc, folate and vitamin E.

A woman who starts a pregnancy without adequate calcium, vitamin D and other bone-building nutrients increases the risk of developing osteoporosis in middle age. But that's not the end of the story. Babies may also be at risk for bone fractures in the future. Middle-age osteoporosis is at least programmed before birth, especially if the mother smokes and has little physical activity. (Refs 2, 3, 4)

Most people believe that Stone Agers are meat eaters. Anthropologists know that's not the case. They lived on a meat diet that was mostly about 100,000 years old, from the time Homo sapiens developed a keen hunting skill to the advent of agriculture. Before that meat came from carcasses and small games. Most of their calories come from vegetables, fruits, roots and nuts.

Plant foods contain everything that a pregnant woman needs, including vitamins, antioxidants, proteins and minerals. Modern vegetarians often lack vitamin B12 but small game, bird eggs and accidental or accidental inclusion in the Stone Age diet provide more important nutrients.

Lack of folic acid in early pregnancy causes brain and spinal cord formation. This abnormality is less likely in breastfed infants receiving at least 400 micrograms a day. So few women eat enough leafy vegetables to boost their folate levels, the U.S. government require the manufacturers of fuels to add it to their products.

Obstetrics have prescribed multivitamins for their pregnant patients for decades but it is only in recent years that studies confirm the wisdom of the practice. In 2002 the American Medical Association reversed the old position and suggested that everyone, without exception, need daily multivitamin / multimineral preparations to avoid the delicate but harmful nutrient deficiencies. Taking multivitamins reduces the risk of congenital congenital newborns, especially those involving the heart. Preeclampsia is a serious, sometimes fatal complication. Women with low vitamin C and E risk three times higher risk. (Refs 5, 6)

Are most of these early Agar stone vegetarians deprived of iron? Impossible. Their diet is rich in iron and also in Vitamin C which facilitates iron absorption. Under these circumstances, iron deficiency will be rare. Cereal grains interfere with the absorption of iron, which explains why iron deficiency is common in societies that are found mostly in grains. However, one of the main reasons why Stone Age women may not have iron deficiency is that they do not have the same menstrual cycle as modern women.

In primitive society menstruation began about 5 years later than young American women. Modern hunters, such as the oldest Batu people, are either pregnant or breastfeeding during most of their birth years and they have only been sexually abused a few times and adopted one. In breastfeeding groups do not suppress ovulation because of the literal demand, that is, every few minutes, even throughout the night. For modern breastfeeding mothers, on demand often means less frequently every few hours and maybe once or twice a night after the third or fourth month. Therefore, menstruation returns despite nursing and continuous blood loss.

Fish-brain connection

Beginning about 150,000 years ago our ancestors discovered seafood. Increased intake of fatty acids in fish and shellfish has led to significant advances in brain size and complexity that allow humans to progress faster in the next 100,000 years than they did in the previous million. Significant gains in the development of language and group communication tools and development followed.

The human brain is made up of mostly water but the dense part is mostly fat. The body cannot produce the omega-3 and omega-6 fats that shape the brain and eyes so that we need them in our diet. Maternal deficiencies, especially omega-3s, prevent the new brain and eyes from reaching their full potential. The best source of omega-3 fats is fish; beans and leafy greens are also good sources.

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are found in every cell of the body. They allow for efficient flow of nutrients, control nerve impulses and keep inflammation in the right balance. In the right diet there is the same amount of omega-3 and omega-6 fats. It enabled the immune system to fight infection, the real threat facing humans from the Stone Age to the age of antibiotics, just 70 years ago.

The benefits of a diet rich in omega-3 fats are obvious but moms need them too. Nature protects the unborn baby by knocking it into mom's omega-3 fat stores. A woman who is low in omega-3 fatty acids during the months and years prior to pregnancy will have her own deficiency. This can be exacerbated by successful pregnancies if your omega-3 intake is low. Postpartum depression affects about 10 percent of women after delivery and is associated with omega-3 deficiency. (Refs 7, 8)

Recent outbreaks

There is one uncommon pregnancy complication in the Stone Age: type 2 diabetes. No disease in modern times has grown so fast. It has increased several times since the 1950s; between 1990 and 2001 it increased by 61 percent. Gestational diabetes patients (Ref 9) are those who do not have full disease but are unable to process blood sugar (glucose) properly during pregnancy. About half of them will develop diabetes in the years following the delivery of their baby.

Most of us know that type 2 diabetes, once referred to as adult diabetes, is a disease that was developed by our grandparents in later years. It is no longer common to find her in teens, even in high school. As it dipped into the younger generation it has surprised - but not surprised - doctors have found that it is no longer rare in obstetric practice.

How can we be sure that Ager's stone contains no diabetes? It is a lifestyle disease that has three major associations: low physical activity level, high diet in cereals and refined sugars, and obesity. These conditions simply did not apply during the Stone Age. Their lifestyle demands hard work. Such grains are not part of their diet because they require controlled equipment and heat. Sugar as we know it doesn't exist and honey is a very lucky find. Obesity certainly does not exist, because today among the lesser population of the hunter-gatherer planet.

Diabetic mothers have more pregnancy complications than normal women. Their babies are 5 times more likely to die and are 3 times more likely to be born with multiple organ abnormalities.

They keep germs in the bay

It is common wisdom that people of Old Age are infected, but that is not true. They have a powerful immune system due to high levels of physical activity and a very diverse diet. Among the protective antibodies that a mother crosses the placenta and what she gives to her firstborn through breast milk, Stone Age babies have more protection against germs today than modern babies.

Sexually transmitted diseases do not spread very far or very fast when people live in isolated groups as they did during the Stone Age. It is possible that pregnant women today have at least one of these infections more than 50 percent (Ref.10). The impact on the baby can be severe; some are dead, some are brain damaged.

Choices and consequences

Tobacco, alcohol and illegal drugs have produced a new generation of babies with problems that were never encountered by stone age babies. Smoking mothers have babies that are less than normal and their brain development can be compromised. Mothers' use of alcohol or cocaine during pregnancy results in severe growth, congenital malformations and severe problems.

Given the choice, none of us want to live in the Stone Age but we have neutralized the almost miraculous medical advances of the last century. We have allowed our girls to be physically inactive and to have a high-fat diet. If we can reverse both of these factors alone there will be a dramatic decline in the early stages and other complications of pregnancy.

The lessons we can learn from the Stone Age are not subtle, obscure or beyond our ability to imitate them. We can create the healthiest generation by making better choices for our children and for ourselves.

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D. is the author of Stone Age Health Secrets, A Better Life Publisher 2005. Contact him through his website at


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2 Cooper C et al., Study: Origins of the development of osteoporotic fractures, Osteoporosis Int 2006; 17 (3): 337-47

3 Prentice A et al., Nutrition and growth and bone development, Proc Nutr Soc 2006 Nov; 65 (4): 348-60

4 Lanham SA et al., Intrauterine programming of bone. Part I: changes in osteogenic environment, Osteoporos Int 2008 Feb; 19 (2): 147-56

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6 Bodnar LM et al., Periconceptional multivitamin use reduces risk of preeclampsia, Am J Epidemiol 2006 Sep 1; 164 (5): 470-7

7 Freeman MP, Omega-3 fatty acids and perinatal depression: a literature review and suggestions for future research, Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 2006 Oct-Nov; 75 (4-5): 291-7

8 Kendall-Tackett K, New paradigm for depression in new mothers: the key role of inflammation and how breast-feeding and anti-inflammatory treatments protect maternal mental health, Int Breastfeed J 2007; 2: 6

9 Greene MF and Solomon Solomon, Gestational Diabetes Mellitus - Time to Treat, N Engl J Med 2005 June 16; 352 (24): 2544-46

10 Baseman JG and Koutsky LA, Epidemiology of human papillomavirus infections, J Clin Virol 2005 Mar; 32 Supple 1: S16-24


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