Caveman Babies!

When a cavewoman gave birth to a cavebaby, how did she cut off the umbilical cord? With a rock? Her teeth? A spare tusk?

If our mammalian cousins are any indication, she probably bit it off.

Or let it rot off from lack of a blood supply. Wouldn’t hurt the baby, it would just shirvel up and fall off.

Except it’s connected to a 4 pound mass of blood and gook. (The placenta, not the baby!)

Most, if not all, animals bite the cord and eat the placenta.

Eweee. But the blood supply was coming from the mother to the baby wasn’t it? Does the planceta draw blood after the babies gone? I’m just assuming that we are talking about a cord that has been torn apart or broken from the baby. Not about a living placenta. That’s just gross . . . :eek:

I am totally confused about this question…

The placenta is a large pancake of an organ that is attached to the mother’s uterine wall, and to the baby via the umbilical cord. It resembles a very large piece of liver (or at least, that’s what I thought when I saw it come out of me). Once the baby is born, it detaches from the uterine wall and you push it on out of you. If the cord weren’t cut, it would hang out like a large bloody pancake attached to the kid by the cord. Eventually the cord would dry out and the whole mess would fall off. Meanwhile, the placenta would not “draw blood” from anywhere, as it is no longer attached to mommy, the host. It certainly would not suck blood back out from the baby, if that’s what you are asking.

If you are asking something else, please clarify.

Considering that man has been using knives for at least five millenia, and likely using tool-like shards for much longer than that, I’d say they probably did just what we do. They cut it.

Adding to what inkleberry said…

The blood does not flow from the mother to the baby. Mother and Baby each have their own blood supply, although there can be a little mixing in the placenta. (This is why a mother can pass on blood-borne illnesses to her baby, but won’t necessarily do so.) The blood flowing through the cord is the baby’s, never the mother’s.

If nobody does anything to the cord, the usual manner of things, as inkleberry said, is for the placenta to still be attached to one end of the cord and the baby to the other when the whole system is out, and the blood will stop flowing through the cord fairly soon after birth. The placenta leaves a large open sore on the uterus when it detaches, which bleeds heavily and is open to infection. Getting the uterus to contract quickly helps speed healing and limit bleeding. The “natural” method to do this is to put the baby to the breast as quickly as possible, since breastfeeding causes the mother’s body to produce hormones that cause contractions. In a modern birth, the midwife or doctor will give the mother a shot of a synthetic hormone to help the process along.

Once in a while, however, a small part of the placenta stays inside the uterus, and this is a very dangerous situation for the mother. The uterus will not contract and the woman can bleed to death. In our cavebaby scenario she would have, if it wasn’t expelled quickly.

As for cutting it, I’m guessing she or someone nearby would have bit through the cord, or cut it with a sharp piece of flint. Carrying the baby AND the umbilical cord AND the placenta around to keep it safe from sabre-toothed tigers would be a lot more work than cutting the cord and carrying just the baby.

The placenta is also called the “afterbrith”; maybe you’re more familiar with that term. It’s, as **inkleberry **says, a pancake of red fleshy looking stuff that is attached the the uterine wall. It’s a mass of blood vessels and capillaries, mostly. Coming out from it is the umbilical cord, which has usually two arteries and one vein. These are vaguely spiraled, like a telephone cord (er…how much longer are we going to be able to use that metaphor? Telephone cords are nearly obsolete! :smack: ). This spiraling means that it’s less likely for the arteries and vein to get kinked or pinched or stretched by the embryo’s movement. About 1 in 100 umbilical cords have only one artery and one vein. About 15-20% of these embryos will be notably smaller, and they’ll be carefully checked for other defects, but the vast majority of the time one artery is enough.

Adding to what **flodnik **said…

In the uterus, the mother’s blood flows in the placenta only. It carries oxygen from her lungs and nutrients from her digestive system. In the placenta, the arteries from the umbilical cord branch out into thousands of little capillaries (teeny-tiny blood vessels). These capillaries come thisclose to the mom’s blood, but are, under normal conditions, not actually mixing blood directly (her blood stays in capillaries of its own - blood is never free-flowing inside the body unless something’s wrong, it’s always inside capillaries or blood vessels). The oxygen and nutrients can move from mom’s blood through the capillary walls and into the embryo’s blood. The capillaries are tiny tubes with holes big enough for oxygen and nutrients, but not big enough for blood cells.

The now oxygen and nutrient filled blood flows from the teeny capillaries to the embryo, and circulate around his system. Again, the blood doesn’t just float anywhere in his body, it’s always inside blood vessels and capillaries. As this happens, his body removes the oxygen and nutrients through the capillary walls. Then it pushes the blood back out that one vein in the umbilical cord, which leads back to the capillaries in the placenta.

Then the process starts over again.

So you can see from this why some things in the mother’s bloodstream, like alcohol, will affect the embryo, while other don’t. Not everything can fit through those tiny holes in the capillaries. If it’s too big to fit, it won’t get into the baby’s blood. (This is a simplified look at blood only - there are other things, like hormones, which aren’t passed by the blood.)

Here’s a picture of a segment of the umbilical cord. This was taken while still inside the uterus. You can see the spiraled ateries and vein very clearly, as well as the main vessels in the embryo’s wrist.

Here’a normal, healthy placenta after birth. That white thing coming out on the right and curving over the top is the umbilical cord, already cut. This is the side that was attached to the uterine wall with a membrane cut away. And this is the side that was facing the embryo, with the cord coming out the middle.

Darn, some of those links don’t work and I can’t seem to fix 'em. If you’re really interested, I found them by Googling “umbilical arteries” and “placenta” respectively.

I forgot the other point I wanted to make:
The placenta is a rich source of protien and iron because of all the blood in it. It’s very similar to liver, nutritionally, but without all the pesky toxic stuff. So, from a nutritional standpoint, it’d be a great thing for an exhausted mother who’s just bled a lot in childbirth to eat.

Erm…NO, I’m not one of those ultra hardcore hippie chicks who ate her babies’ placentas. But I’m just sayin’…y’know…if I was a cavewoman…
…Never mind, going away now…

The links worked fine for me, and they were great pictures. Thanks!

I think we need to define “caveman”. Members of our own species lived in caves at one time, and it is inconceivable that they wouldn’t use a tool to cut the umbilical cord. Would early Homo erectus have done so? It’s probably just as likely that the mother bit the cord in half.

huh? wuh? I don’t know nuthin’! :eek:

Why? I’m not saying you’re wrong, I just wonder what makes it “inconceivable”?

Because they are us. Maybe I’m wrong in assuming this, but among the living hunter gatherer tribes today, is the practice of biting the cord in half still used? If not, that’s a good reason to believe that earlier societies of Homo sapiens (who lived in caves) didn’t. Again, I could be wrong about the practice as it exists today.

You know, modern mothers still bite their babies’ fingernails short even though they have baby fingernail clippers; why just because one is a tool-using species do you have to use a tool?

They do??? Always??? I think we’r talking about common practice, not what might happen in sporidic cases.

I’m willing to stand corrected if someone comes up with a cite that the common practice among most existing hunter gatherers is to bite the cord in half. We’ll never know for certain what “cavemen” did, but it’s reasonable to assume that, for example, Cro Magnon peoples used the same method that extant hunter gatherers use.

sheepishly raises hand

I do. It’s just too easy to cut their poor little fingers with the clippers.

I doubt there’s statistics on such things, but all the moms I know have secretly admitted to me that they do it, too. :stuck_out_tongue:

I had a (hairy-pitted) bolilogy teacher who’d eaten one of hers, fried IIRC, she kept another pickled on the shelf in her larder. Don’t know whic came first the pickling or the eating. :rolleyes:

Hey, not cool!
That is so condescending.