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Birth, also known as parturition, is the act or process of bearing or bringing forth offspring. In mammals, the process is initiated by hormones which cause the muscular walls of the uterus to contract, expelling the fetus at a developmental stage when it is ready to feed and breathe. In some species the offspring is precocial and can move around almost immediately after birth but in others it is altricial and completely dependent on parenting. In marsupials, the fetus is born at a very immature stage after a short gestational period and develops further in its mother's pouch.
It is not only mammals that give birth. Some reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates carry their developing young inside them. Some of these are ovoviviparous, with the eggs being hatched inside the mother's body, and others are viviparous, with the embryo developing inside her body, as in mammals.
Large mammals, such as primates, cattle, horses, some antelopes, giraffes, hippopotamuses, rhinoceroses, elephants, seals, whales, dolphins, and porpoises, generally are pregnant with one offspring at a time, although they may have twin or multiple births on occasion. In these large animals, the birth process is similar to that of a human, though in most the offspring is precocial. This means that it is born in a more advanced state than a human baby and is able to stand, walk and run (or swim in the case of an aquatic mammal) shortly after birth. In the case of whales, dolphins and porpoises, the single calf is normally born tail first which minimises the risk of drowning. The mother encourages the newborn calf to rise to the surface of the water to breathe.
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