Reproductive Technologies
Pregnacy
Image from Bernd Helfert

Neo-Pregnancy

'Neo-Pregnancy' is a generic term for any of a number of redesigns of the mammalian (and usually female) reproductive system to make the entire process of pregnancy and labour a more pleasant one for the mother, without compromising foetal development, or the ability of the mother to carry the baby herself. These are related to, but separate from, the development and use of technologies such as synthetic wombs, where the foetus develops entirely separately from the mother. However, many women did not, and do not, wish to 'farm out' their foetus to a machine and lose the intimate bonding and closeness that comes with carrying a child, and it is from this desire that the various types of Neo-Pregnancy have developed.


Neural Rewiring

The simplest and oldest of these techniques, developed during the nanotech age, involves the rewriting of the nervous system of the mother to greatly reduce the pain of birth without compromising her ability to 'push'. This was one of the earliest instances of modification to give voluntary control of stimuli such as pain. In more extreme (and often subtly misogynistic or simply very hedonistic) cases this is done to the point of birth being very pleasurable for the mother. This sometimes happens where a society is sexist and wishes to keep women as second class citizens, and pregnant. Making pregnancy be an extremely pleasurable experience for women 'helps' them but also indirectly keeps them as second class citizens, unable to advance to the higher ranks of society, by insidiously making them want to be pregnant and maybe stay at home. This highly indirect misogyny is often reinforced by the use of memetics. In extreme cases pregnancy is set up to be highly addictive and somewhat debilitating, making it hard for women to be an equal in society when they are essentially blissed out all the time.

In some societies of this nature the number of children a man fathers is a sign of his status, manhood or godliness, and so use this modification to improve the lot of the fathers. In others, where women are treated as property or pets, their 'masters' do not want them to suffer, and so implement this modification to that end. Such subtly misogynistic cultures often escape enforcement of the Sentient Bill of Rights because cultures that love women use the same sort of modifications on their people, if for very different reasons, making it harder for an outside observer to tell the difference between the two.


MomMods

This is a catch-all for a variety of general pregnancy-related modifications whose development began during the nanotech age which are carried out to improve the overall experience of pregnancy and post-natal life for mothers. They may or may not be associated with other modifications. These modifications include changes in a number of different areas:

  • Removing the softening of the ligaments and tendons of the mother, so reducing her aches and pains during pregnancy. Although an unmodified pregnancy will still require the softening of the ligaments and tendons of the pelvis, in this case the modification means that only those ligaments and tendons soften rather than all of them throughout the body of the mother.
  • Modifications to the pelvis and spine to allow the weight of the baby to be more easily carried.
  • Eliminating morning sickness.
  • Eliminating stretch marks.
  • Modifying the perineum of the mother to avoid tearing.
  • Modifications to eliminate or delay the 'baby blues' until after the parents have adjusted to the arrival of their child, or to speed the hormonal switching that causes them.
  • Helping the recovery of the mother after delivery.

The Neo-Foetus, type I

A modification introduced during the First Federation period, this is a change to the instinctive reactions of the baby to update them from the caveman-(or un-provolved mammal)-specific ones possessed by an unmodified baseline hu (or other mammalian entity) into something more suitable for the modern day. This often includes modifications to allow easier and pain-free breast-feeding, including the addition of better 'latching on' instincts to the baby.


The Neo-Pelvis

Next oldest, being developed during the later nanotech age, and the most commonly encountered, is the structural redesign of the female spine, pelvis and genitals to facilitate pregnancy and birth and enhance recovery from it more than the naturally-evolved structures allow. In general (though not in all cases, and often in misogynistic societies) this is done without compromising female sexual ability and pleasure. This type of modification usually also includes Mommods. Clade Anakim use a version of this modification.


The Neo-Foetus type II

An additional approach taken by the high-gravity-adapted clade Anakim modifies the flexibility of the head of the foetus to allow for an easier birth.

Baby Anakim have skulls consisting of small bony plates affixed to a cartilaginous matrix. This arrangement resists compression that would damage the brain while remaining flexible enough to squeeze through a birth canal opening smaller than the diameter of the uncompressed skull. The skull of the newborn then 'sets' to a harder consistency a few hours after birth and solidifies completely within a month. Many other mammalian bionts have adopted this approach.


The Neo-Foetus type III

Another approach, different to the above, is to leave the female body alone but alter the timing of foetal development. This type of modification was developed during the first millennium A.T. With it embryological development is greatly altered so that infants are born with much smaller heads than for a baseline hu, thus giving a much easier birth. After birth their brains develop rapidly to 'catch up', after which development continues as for a baseline hu with the only side-effect being that the child spends significantly longer as a helpless baby. Given the rate at which the brain develops, those with this modification are often referred to by the derogatory term 'balloon heads' or 'pinheads'.

This modification was the first type of Neo-Pregnancy to take those with it out of the nearbaseline human gene pool and into a clade of their own. As with the Neo-Pelvis, most modifications of this type also include Mommods.


Marsupialisation

The next most common is a modification to 'marsupialise' the female. This modification was also developed during the first millennium A.T. In this case the mother has an external pouch, and the baby is transferred to this after being born while tiny and can thus be delivered easily and painlessly. Once in the pouch the baby grows on its mother's milk. This method has the disadvantage that the baby is living and excreting in its mothers pouch while it grows, with all of the potential unpleasantness that that entails. However, especially in polities where technological solutions to this issue are available this modification is quite widely used. In some variants of this modification the baby is delivered inside a leathery egg (much like the monotreme mammals) from which it hatches inside the pouch of the mother. This type of modification usually also includes Mommods, and also includes modifications to eliminate the immunological problems from which unmodified marsupials can suffer.

In some groups that make use of this modification both the female and male have pouches and functioning mammary glands. Thus both genders can carry and feed a child. Often the bearing of the child is shared between both parents. As with the Neo-Foetus, this modification takes those hu with it out of the nearbaseline human gene pool and into a clade of their own.


The Womb-Pouch Modification

A more radical Neo-Womb modification combines the best of placental and marsupial features, giving the advantages and protection of carrying a baby to full term within the womb while also the ease of birth enjoyed by a marsupial. This was developed in the early Age of Expansion.

With this modification, there are usually some structural redesign of the female spine, pelvis and genitals to facilitate pregnancy and birth. In addition to this, the womb has two entrances, one from the vagina via which fertilisation occurs, and a much larger opening at the top which gives pouch-like access to the womb. When the baby is developing it grows much as in an unmodified baseline hu, in an amniotic sac, fed by a placenta. The top opening of the womb remains sealed closed as the walls of the womb become thicker and tougher to support the growing baby (this also avoids any issues with ectopic pregnancies or endometriosis occurring in the second passage). As the baby approaches maturity, the interior of the womb and the exterior of the placenta change from mucous membranes to skin, the amniotic fluid drains, and the top opening of the womb weakens. When it is fully developed the movement of the baby opens its pouch. The inrush of air triggers breathing, and also the sealing off and detachment of the umbilical cord from it. The baby can then be removed and begins life as an independent entity. The inrush of air as the baby is removed also triggers the body to begin reabsorbing the placenta and returning the womb to its (much smaller and thinner) un-pregnant state.

Again, this type of modification usually also includes Mommods. However, the mother does still have all of the hormonal changes associated with pregnancy in a baseline hu. This modification also takes those hu with it out of the nearbaseline human gene pool and into a clade of their own. Societies with a great many people with this modification often make far less of a fuss about labour and birth than those with less modified forms of foetal development.


The Symbio-Womb

One of the most radical of the Neo-Womb designs is the Symbio-Womb. This was developed during the early Age of Establishment. In this modification, the fertilised egg is delivered to a position just under the skin of the abdomen of the mother, often through a modification of the navel, protected by a muscular capsule there. Encapsulated in a protective bubble reinforced by a muscular layer (much like the wall of the womb in a baseline hu), the foetus (or foetuses if there is a multiple birth) begins to grow.

Under the skin of her abdomen the mother has an Exo-Placenta situated inside concentric rings of slits in the skin. Inactive when she is not pregnant, it develops into an active state as the foetus implants, with its placenta growing down into the slits to meet that of the mother. Placental rings further from the centre become active consecutively as the baby grows. The skin of the Symbio-Womb becomes the cover of the womb, growing out and through that of the mother at the navel, sealed and held to the mother with organic glue that is secretes. This also inhibits sweat and the loss of skin cells under it. Most Symbio-Wombs also grow organic 'straps' around the back of the mother to help attach it to her.

'Labour' loosens the organic glue and weakens the hold of the Exo-Placenta on the mother, as well as drying out the Symbio-Womb so that it can be easily (and painlessly) opened and the baby removed. When this process begins there are always signs of this loosening that the mother cannot fail to notice, so there is very little chance of the Symbio-Womb falling off unexpectedly. Once the baby is born the remainder of the Symbio-Womb is easily and painlessly removed, and the placental slits in the mothers' abdomen re-seal and become inactive again (although the thicker active placental layer will be noticeable for a while). This type of modification usually also includes Mommods. In this case too the mother still has all of the hormonal changes associated with pregnancy in a baseline hu.

Some groups who make use of this modification have further modified it so that the Exo-Placenta can be detached during the early stages of pregnancy and transferred to another person, or to an external life-support system. In some of these groups, the males have also been modified so that they too have an Exo-Placenta and can carry children. Again, this modification takes those hu with it out of the nearbaseline human gene pool and into a clade of their own. As with some other Neo-Pregnancies, societies with a great many people with this modification often make far less of a fuss about labour and birth than those with less modified forms of foetal development. This modification has acquired the derogatory name of 'parasite womb'.


Pre-Birthing

A technique developed by and for the Highbrow clade, to account for the modifications used by this clade, in Pre-Birthing the foetus is delivered while still inside the embryonic membrane, which by this time has thickened into leathery egg-sac. This egg-sac, which grows with the foetus, remains connected to the mother by way of a modified umbilical cord that passes into the females body through her vagina to the relatively unmodified placenta. The cord is as leathery as the egg-sac, making it able to function normally outside the mothers body. Additionally, muscular tissue around the cord and one-way valves within aid in the flow of blood over its greater length.

After Pre-Birth a temporary cleft forms in the wall of the mothers vagina, into which the umbilical cord seats itself. The vaginal wall then encloses the umbilical cord for the remainder of the foetus's development. This is all done in such a way as to maintain a seal and prevent infection gaining access to the body of the mother. The egg-sac has two long tentacle-like projections that can be used to hang it around the mother's waist, neck (over the shoulder) or any convenient limb. Highbrow fathers are noted for carrying the weight of the egg-sac whenever ey walk with eir mates. It also includes a yolk sac to keep the foetus fed if blood flow through the umbilical cord should be temporarily interrupted.

Since its development, clades other than the Highbrows have also made use of the Pre-Birth modification for their own needs. However as it less convenient, more prone to infections, and usually requires more technological support than many of the other forms of Neo-Pregnancy it is less widely adopted than them. In Highbrows a Pre-Birth pregnancy lasts roughly twice as long as a full term baseline pregnancy, the foetus needing this additional time for the growth of its enlarged brain. For other sophonts this time may vary, as required by the sophont in question. In Highbrows and many others that use this modification, during the last three months the egg-sac thins and the baby can observe the world it will be born into through its walls, if in a somewhat blurry fashion. A baby developing via Pre-Birth is easy to transfer to a synthetic womb or other such external life-support system should it be required.


The Virtual, or Bi-substrate, Womb

In this modification, adapted from that used by many types of vec and first used in the First Federation period, there is no biological foetus at all. Instead the mind of the child is 'seeded' from that of eir parent(s) and develops in a virch environment that simulates the womb. Often a sensory feed from an appropriate point inside the body of the mother is included as part of this.

In parallel with this, a mindless biont baby is grown in a synthetic womb. At the point where the birth would occur the mind of the baby is extracted from the virch, often by way of a form of simulated labour, and placed in the biont body, from which point the baby develops normally.This type of Neo-Pregnancy is a widespread across Terragens space, although obviously not in more prim or resource-poor polities.


Breast Feeding

The manner in which a mammal feeds its young, using milk secreted from the mammary glands.A common modification, and one introduced in the late Interplanetary Age, is to make breast-feeding easier, pain-free and more instinctive for the mother. This often includes conscious control of milk production and flow.


Umbilical Filter

A bio- or nanotech device developed during the Interplanetary Age which is inserted into or grown on the umbilical cord of a baby. It filters out a wide range of substances that are potentially harmful to the developing child from the blood in the umbilical artery, such as alcohol, and shunts them back into the umbilical vein for disposal via the placenta.


Male Pregnancy

Since male mammals lack a womb, alternative measures have to be taken for them to become pregnant. In most cases male pregnancy is a form of ectopic pregnancy, where the foetus develops outside the womb. First developed in the early centuries A.T., a male pregnancy requires the father to take female hormones to prepare their body for the pregnancy. Fertilization of the egg is done in vitro, and it is then implanted into the abdominal cavity of the father, where it develops much as in the female womb before being delivered by caesarean section.

Early male pregnancies had a number of problems relating to the male lack of a womb and its associated musculature, which led to a lack of support for the developing foetus. Over time a number of synthetic support structures, either external or implanted, were developed to avoid these problems, and also allow a less surgically-invasive delivery of the child. As technology developed, in many polities males who wished to become pregnant would simply transfer their mind to a female body and go through pregnancy in that way. In other places a form of implantable synthetic womb allows a male to go through pregnancy without the problems associated with the earlier types of male pregnancy.


Male Breasts

Historically there have reports of men who have been able to breastfeed. In human and other male mammals there is a drop in testosterone after their partner gives birth. In some cultures, beginning in the late Interplanetary Age, this has been used to trigger the production of milk in the male as well as the female of the species, allowing them to assist the mother in child-rearing. Given that female breasts of all sizes produce enough milk for a baby, giving males discreet but fully functional breasts has proved to be an entirely possible modification. To assist with breast feeding male breasts are subject to the same modifications as the female.


Super-Milk

After the composition of breast milk became fully understood in the second century A.T., scientists developed a synthetic breast milk that was, finally, as good as, and then better than, real breast milk in terms of its nutritional value to the developing baby and its benefits in terms of both mental and physical development. However, this still lacked the maternal cells such as leukocytes, macrophages and lymphocytes, and the varied flavours of true breast milk, making it less than perfect. In addition to protests over the choice of name, implying falsely that this was truly superior to breast milk, there were also a number of scandals involving some of the early super-milks, which turned out to be quack medicines of little value to a baby. This led to a widespread public distrust of the Super-Milk idea which lasted for some centuries.


Synthi-Breast

A generic term for a bio- or nanotech device designed to provide milk to a baby in a way very similar to that of the natural breast. Most of these devices consist of a synthetic nipple coupled to a small chemical synthesiser that produces artificial breast milk or a similar substance, such as Super-Milk. Synthi-Breasts use water and nutrient tables to power themselves and produce fresh milk for a baby. In many of them the milk they produce has the disadvantage of lacking the maternal cells and varied flavours of true breast milk, but more advanced models can synthesise the former from a tissue sample of the mother, and simulate the latter within defined limits using extra nutrients.


Synthetic Womb

Also known as an Exo-Womb, this is a generic term for any synthetic bio- or nanotechnological device that mimics the mammalian womb and which allows a foetus to be grown to term independently of a biont mother. The first of these were developed in the second century A.T., initially for use with IVF technologies, but later for animal breeding, cloning and a host of other uses. Originally stand-alone units, as time has passed most synthetic wombs have become linked to angelnets or house systems. Often a new colony will fabricate a series of synthi-wombs very soon after arrival in order to assist the process of population expansion.

Most of these devices are a cylinder that is lined with a synthetic tissue simulating the wall of the womb. A fertilised egg is inserted adjacent to this wall and implants in it in the same way as happens in a biont womb. The synthetic womb then links to the placenta of the developing foetus and provides for the foetus as it grows and develops, while also monitoring its health and growth status. When the foetus is fully developed the synthetic womb is opened and the baby removed to begin its normal life. Most synthetic wombs use externally-delivered nutrients to provide for the growing foetus, but more advanced models are linked into the systems of where they are placed and can recycle waste materials into the appropriate nutrients.

Early models of synthetic wombs decanted babies that suffered from a form of sensory deprivation, deprived of the normal sounds and other sensory stimuli present in the mammalian womb by the dark, quiet Synthetic Womb. Later models overcame these problems by introducing simulated movement, sounds, light and so on equivalent to that which the foetus would experience in a biont womb.
More advanced models yet are fully functional artificial organs that can be implanted into a biont where they function as in the same way as a natural womb. In many polities this is often used to allow male pregnancies.


Nappy Symbiotes

A bio- or nanotech nappy for a baby. It automatically absorbs the baby's excreta and cleanses the baby afterwards. Most of them are powered from the breakdown of the chemicals within the excreta and process the remains and their own wastes to produce water vapour and clean dry pellets (which are usually hygienically packaged) as their only by-products. Some Nappy Symbiotes also incorporate a Synthi-Breast element, turning the waste products of the baby back into nutritious milk for them, though this usually requires the addition of extra nutrients and/or energy, making a clean semi-closed system. As an adjunct to this some Nappy Symbiotes incorporate a layer that discretely inserts itself into the intestines of the baby and lines their interior, increasing the efficiency of nutrient extraction, thus reducing the volume of excreta, and so reducing the workload on the Nappy.

Other Nappy Symbiotes monitor the health of the baby they are applied to as part of their function. Some do this simply by being in contact with the baby. Others also analyse the excreta of the baby for any more subtle problems that may arise. These type of Nappy Symbiotes often form part of an Angelnet or house monitoring system.


Baby Monitor I

The first baby monitors were created in the early first century A.T., and consisted of a simple radio transmitter that allowed parents in another room to hear (and later see) their baby from another location. As technology improved, baby monitors began to incorporate other functionality, becoming all-purpose baby health and physical state monitors. These gave parents the very useful ability to tell why a baby was crying, not just that it was crying. Since then these systems have become smaller, less intrusive and more comprehensive, and have spread across Terragens space. Many of them are linked into angelnets or house systems, and some form part of a Nappy Symbiote a baby may use.


Baby Monitor II

A modification to the foetus that provides monitoring of its state without any technological assistance. This is done by either adding chromatophores to the baby in defined patches, or modifying the blood supply to the baby, often to the forehead, to allow blushing in specific, defined areas. Each of these patches or areas will blush or change colour when the baby is suffering from a different problem, allowing easier and quicker parental assessment of the reason why a baby may be crying, then return to normal colouration once the problem is addressed and the baby stops crying. In most cases these monitoring modifications become inoperative once the baby becomes able to speak and so tell their parents why they are crying and so on.
 
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Development Notes
Text by Tony Jones and the AI Vin
Bernd Helfert
Initially published on 18 January 2007.

Inspired by the pregnancy of my wife, Karen Goode, and discussions with her about it all. (Tony Jones)