This human society is similar to the Drow in that their world is broken down into matriarchal houses. Each house has branch clans that support their own lineages, but pay homage to the main house. Loyalty to one's house is everything, and internal strife is kept to a minimum. This leads to more stability within families. However, the world they live in is harsh, with fierce competition between houses over limited resources and territory. They primarily stay away from open warfare, with more emphasis on subterfuge and politicking, and sabotage. Killing is mostly left to short skirmishes or assassination.

The religion they worship is very Machiavellian, with a belief in personal strength and ambition. This ruthlessness even extends to maternity. This society has a low opinion on maternal death rates, which are. A woman who miscarriages or dies in childbirth is considered weak and deserving of her fate. It is part of the natural order that the strong survive and prosper, and the weak die. Therefore, the memory of that individual is shamed and considered a black mark on her house. This would naturally push many people away from going through the process.

How can a society, with these beliefs deeply rooted in its culture, maintain a stable or high population?

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    "This would naturally push many people away from going through the process." Only if #1 you're weak-willed, #2 from weak stock and #3 haven't figured out sanitation. IOW, I deny your presupposition. – RonJohn Oct 14 at 20:00
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    I don't understand how the question relates to the premise. I don't see how the culture and religion described will have more than a minor effect on pregnancy rates. There's an obvious effect that women's choice of high-quality mates will be rather small due to the clan stuff. But folks will still do it, even if it's with their buck-toothed, big-eared cousin. – user535733 Oct 14 at 21:32
  • What kind of technology level are we dealing with here? And is the use of magic as a technology substitute an option? – Sydney Sleeper Oct 15 at 0:09
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    How does this culture differ from any other that lacks effective birth control methods? – jamesqf Oct 15 at 4:29
  • The natural order of things limits unbridled growth causing resource over usage and resultant war. Anything that causes over population is a result of unsustainable use of some resource (fossil energy in Earth's case) that results in more people than can live without pillaging. – KalleMP Oct 15 at 8:06

Childbirth is like battle. You don't take it on if you don't think you can win.

It is no strange thing to have those defeated or killed in battle to have lost honor in the process. Why would anyone then risk being shamed and sally out to fight if they had any other option? Answer: those who choose to fight do so thinking that they will win.

So too the strong women of this race. Unlike human females who often are compelled by males and biology to become pregnant when circumstances are not optimal, the women of this race become pregnant when they choose. And like going out to battle, there are benefits which come with the risk. A successful battle brings spoils and honor to the victorious. A successful pregnancy brings honor and power to the lineage.

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    Unless these people have effective birth control methods, women simply don't have a choice. – jamesqf Oct 15 at 4:28
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    @jamesqf In a world of machiavellian matriarchies I'd say they absolutely do: Don't have sex. Only those who believe they can deal with the consequences have sex, the rest of the time they instead rely on pressure from the matriarchy or subtle traps (poisoned underwear, strategically placed bear traps, just having a lot of knives on their person) to dissuade potential suitors. – Joe Bloggs Oct 15 at 7:54
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    @jamesqf abstinence has always been a choice, even a means of coercion so available to the matriarchy, not sure if is the issue here. – KalleMP Oct 15 at 7:59
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    @jamesqf People have been using abortion when that is available. I think the stakes here are pretty high and if women are in power and choose not to put out then I think that that will be the end of it. – KalleMP Oct 17 at 23:36
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    @jamesqf OP said matriarchal. That means women make the choices and so can decide when and who has sex. – KalleMP Oct 19 at 8:52

There are three factors that help explain this tendency. One is that the odds aren't that bad. In human history, on the scale of societies, maternal health has rarely if ever been the limiting factor on population. Food supplies, disaster or disease or famine, war - these are what's kept our population from growing. Not the ability to produce the next generation without consuming the previous in the process. It also seems logical that in this culture, prospective mothers would have a bit more leverage with which to maximize their chances. That makes the odds look not that bad.

The second factor is the potential for reward. In a society that rewards strength, not testing that strength is almost as bad as failure. In a society that rewards ambition, not applying yourself is considered practically a sin. The only reason why someone wouldn't pursue children is that they thought they were incapable and/or they had some better thing to do with their time, something that would provide a legacy of its own. I have to assume that women (and to an extent men) without a visible "other thing" in their lives would be thought less of for not having children, because it implies that they are too weak.

The third factor is that humans are terrible risk assessors. Given the balance between low risk (the first factor) and high reward (the second factor), we tend to overemphasize the second, pushing the first out of the picture entirely. We believe that we will reap the rewards and someone else will take the consequences. In the absence of a specific risk factor (family history perhaps), the average woman in this society would probably consider the risk both reasonable and worthwhile.

  • Actually, it's infant mortality that has been the big limiter. That said, maternal mortality is not irrelevant. In "High Tide in Tucson", Barbara Kinsolving stated that Puritan marriages lasted an average of 12 years. It wasn't divorce that caused it, it was childbirth. – WhatRoughBeast Oct 17 at 16:26

In a way I think your base idea is slightly flawed. The urge to reproduce is a biological necessity. We are compelled to continue our species because that urge is what led to our own existence through our ancestors. Individuals who have the urge to reproduce therefore have more offspring than those that don't and that need to do so becomes more prevalent across the species. It is basic evolution.

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I need to premise this response by clarifying that I do not in any way agree with the ideas I am stating below. Only that it is a means to accomplish the desired affects if the society believes this. Miscarriage and death at childbirth are very serious matters that should be considered the farthest thing from shameful.

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As a counter idea, it may not be that they avoid pregnancy as much, but natural selection has lead to more successful births and strong infants. Say a woman has some condition that leads to multiple miscarriages, thus decreasing her status in society. She is then less desirable to the males and less likely to be impregnated by a strong male. Meanwhile a woman who has stronger, larger babies, or even multiple births (twins? triplets?) is considered to be of higher class and more desired by stronger males.

As a result, more people are born to stronger lineages and it actually serves to improve the society as a whole over a few centuries. Then the death of a mother could also be considered shameful, and even a sign of weak body or poor mind if she was not "smart enough" to care for herself during pregnancy, or something along those lines. In this way the biological need to reproduce is still met, while still tying child birth rates to honor.

Delegate

A matriarch rules over a whole host of extended family. She probably has sisters and female cousins enough. She can just delegate the task of childbirth onto selected members of her family, and later claim the most worthy daughters as her potential heirs. Those who are chosen as clan mothers will have a respected position within the family, especially if they are successful.

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