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MrGrimm888's avatar

Why is giving birth so painful, for every animal? (Details )

Asked by MrGrimm888 (16809points) December 10th, 2016

Weather it’s eggs being laid, or live birth, it seems all creatures experience immense pain during the birthing process.

Obviously the pain is anatomical in nature. That’s not what I’m asking.

It seems like it doesn’t correspond with evolution. The pain could be viewed as a deterrent to have sex, and reproduce.

It feels good to have sex. Why is the outcome so painful for the mother?

Life has been on this planet for hundreds of millions of years. Why is the mother “punished” by mother nature?

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103 Answers

SQUEEKY2's avatar

Interesting I have no answer , but a very interesting question.

Sneki95's avatar

Your body develops an organism for months, and then it is pulled out of your body.

How can it not hurt?

cinnamonk's avatar

Because you’re pushing something roughly the size of a small watermelon through a passageway roughly the width of a paper towel tube?

Judi's avatar

I used to be a fundamentalist so keep that in mind.
It has been said that while giving birth to my first child (between rants that would embarrass a sailor) I screamed, “God why did this happen to me? I didn’t eat the apple!”
And when my oldest daughter was giving birth she looked me in the eye dead serious and said “Eve was a bitch.”
This goes to the verse in Genisis where God says that because of Eve’s disobedience he will greatly increase her pain in child bearing.
I don’t know the evolutionary answer but that’s the answer that’s been given to women for thousands of years

SQUEEKY2's avatar

What I would like to know , women knowing full well this is going to be a ride through hell keep having children?
You would think after the first one they would call it quits.

cinnamonk's avatar

Intercourse being pleasurable is necessary for animals to have sex and propagate their genes.

It is not necessary that giving birth also be pleasurable to ensure the propagation of genes.

Zissou's avatar

I will hazard a guess: with regard to offspring, there seem to be two basic evolutionary strategies: have a lot of offspring with little parental investment in any individual offspring’s survival, or have few offspring with a lot of parental investment in each. Fish and frogs do the former, humans and gorillas do the latter, with other animals somewhere in between.

But why the pain? First of all, I’m not sure it is equally painful for all; mammals (especially humans) and sea turtles have it rough, but I’m not sure chickens do. That said, maybe it is adaptive for organisms to “push the envelope” here. Organisms that go the many-offspring route push the envelope by having as many as they can at a time. Organisms that have fewer offspring will make them as big and developed as possible when they come out. The reason for this is because they will have a competitive advantage over organisms that don’t push their females to the brink in this way.

The name of the biological game is propagating the genes, not making things easy for the mother.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

This is just conjecture, I am making a guess.

Maybe there is an evolutionary advantage to being agile and small most of your life. The extra structure/mass to make birth easier would slow you down 99% of the time.

Maybe making birth difficult assures the baby is held safely in place and doesn’t drop out before its ready.

Zissou's avatar

Addendum: in addition to selection pressures generally favoring strenuous births mentioned above, there will be other pressures based on the niche the animal occupies. I mentioned sea turtles; think about why they have to lay so many eggs at a time. Think about why penguins have to lay a single enormous (relative to other birds) egg a time rather than a clutch. The large human brain poses special difficulties for the mother. Etc.

canidmajor's avatar

Yeah, it hurts like a sumbitch, but it’s not so awful that we don’t get over it. It’s something that simply is, evolution is about survival to pass on genes, not what might hurt. Very few species know that sex leads to birth anyway.
I think that @Zissou and @Call_Me_Jay have good points.

janbb's avatar

As my mother used to say, “If you didn’t get a baby at the end of it, it wouldn’t be worth it!” Sure beats passing a kidney stone in terms of the result.

MrGrimm888's avatar

So. It’s meant to be traumatic to keep the mother around for a while?

Interesting. I’ve not thought of that before. The mother, and child will need a healing period…Both could use…

Still seems disadvantageous evolutionarily speaking.

olivier5's avatar

I think it’s particularly painful for humans (women) because the baby’s brain is so large. Among mammals, some like rodents don’t seem to suffer so much.

Mariah's avatar

The more developed something is by the time it is thrown into the world, the better its chances of survival. Imagine if we gave birth at month 5 instead of 9, how many newborns would die. Unfortunately this means the baby has be as large as the female can tolerate.

canidmajor's avatar

@MrGrimm888: it’s not meant to be anything. It simply is. Look at it from another angle. The females that are the most advanced (mammals in general) are probably not alone. Their chances of survival are higher because they have community/pack/herd/whatever support, which allows them to be more vulnerable while birthing a more developed baby, which is more likely to survive.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I don’t know that it’s painful for every animal. I’br watched cats and dogs birth. It doesn’t seem to be too bad.
It’s painful for human women because we have to push out these babies with enormous heads. In natures opinion, that enormous head = brain power, is worth the life it sometimes cost the mother.

How many animals die in child birth, because of childbirth, I wonder?

Dutchess_III's avatar

@SQUEEKY2 to answer your question, it doesn’t have to be a ride through hell any more, not with modern medicine.

As to why women keep going through it, well, historically birth control was frowned upon, and you weren’t allowed to deny your husband sex. Plenty of women break down and cry when they learn they’re pregnant again.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

I see that point @Dutchess_III but we have a niece that wants five and has three already her husband was done at two but it is her that wants to keep going why?

janbb's avatar

@Squeaky2 Because she wants five children!

SQUEEKY2's avatar

but to go through all that pain?
I will never understand that.
She got mad at her husband for not helping out more with the kids one day while we were there ,this guy works 12 to 14 hours a day then runs around 50 head of cattle on the mother inlaws farm gets roughly about 4 hours a day sleep and when we see them on a day off he is helping with the kids.
I think five is utterly ridiculous but it’s their life.

canidmajor's avatar

What part of “we get over it” do you not understand? Of course, I’m only addressing the actual topic of pain-of-childbirth, not your oft repeated distaste of having children, in whatever context.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

You must get over it ,hence the way over population of this planet.

Seek's avatar

Giving birth has been painful since long before we had the cognition to choose not to breed.

It hurts because there has been no selective pressure to make it not hurt.

That’s about it.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@AnonymousAccount8 has it right. Once an organism becomes pregnant (or the equivalent), the offspring is coming out whether it hurts or is pleasurable. Unless some aspect of the birth threatens the survival of the offspring or the ability of the parent to produce more offspring in future, there’s no reason for evolutionary forces to work against it.

ucme's avatar

If I shat out a grapefruit it would bring a tear to my eye, that is all.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

That would be like asking why do people so senile when they get old? Why do people who never smoked get cancer? How come women are more prone to osteoporosis than men? How come men have beards and not women? The only answer I can give you that you would accept is that is just the way it is.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Well. We know why women get osteoporosis, why men have beards, why old people go senile, and why non smokers get cancer.

@Hypocrisy_Central . Thanks for understanding that I wouldn’t accept a religious answer. But I’m curious, does your religion mention why it’s so bad for females?

Only animal I can think of where the male gives birthis a Sea Horse… Why are the females put through so much?

This question obviously doesn’t have a right or wrong answer. I was just curious what others thought….

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

^ But I’m curious, does your religion mention why it’s so bad for females?
I PMed you on that to keep the usual soapboxers from trying to derail the thread.

imrainmaker's avatar

Here’s the link
that explains it in detail.

MrGrimm888's avatar

^Interesting link. Thanks.

olivier5's avatar

Still, why is there pain? Pain, like pleasure, is usually an incentive. But an incentive for what, in that case?

MrGrimm888's avatar

^That’s my conundrum. It seems to go against how evolution normally works. If I were a female, I’d be terrified to give birth. If I knew a 9 pound animal would have to tear it’s way out of my body, I would never have sex. Ever… But evolution is supposed to provide benefits for reproduction of the species. In the case of the birthing process, it seems like a punishment…

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

Maybe a population with easy births breeds too much and there’s not enough food, too much war, etc.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Unlike many things religious, the punishment of Eve thing seems applicable. But animals seem to experience pain as well. Are even the animals punished for Eve’s apple eating?

MrGrimm888's avatar

@Call_Me_Jay . Ah! That’s a great thought….

MrGrimm888's avatar

If it wasn’t so hard, there’d be way more of us. A built-in population control maybe?

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

evolution is supposed to provide benefits for reproduction

It doesn’t have to be beneficial. It just has to be not a deal breaker.

Appendixes and little toes aren’t helping us, but people with them still breed, so we keep them.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Back in the day. Guys used to cut off there pinckey toes to run faster in the 40 yard dash… But I think it affects your agility to lose the little toes.

Dutchess_III's avatar

As I said before, and I will repeat, today’s medicine allows women to give birth virtually pain free.
Prior to modern times, women just didn’t have much choice when it came to getting pregnant. Birth control wasn’t even legal before 1965, for God’s sake!

For myself, I refused all drugs when I gave birth to my two youngest. I had them two years apart. The second time, when those transition contractions hit I cried, “OH MY GOD!! NOW I REMEMBER WHY I SWORE I’D NEVER DO THIS AGAIN!”

Yeah, we do get over it, but I wish you’d stop putting the blame squarely on the women, as if the men can’t take measures themselves to try to prevent pregnancy.

janbb's avatar

@Dutchess_III I think the question was more about evolutionary biology than personal anecdotes.

MrGrimm888's avatar

^Blame?... @Dutchess_III . What on Earth are you talking about?

Neither this question, nor any responses I’ve seen even approach anything I could remotely consider offensive…

With so much to be angry about in reality, why imagine offenses?

The question was meant to focus on evolution…

MrGrimm888's avatar

Yes @janbb ! You beat me by a key stroke.

Dutchess_III's avatar

It’s coming from @SQUEEKY2, who I love dearly:

”... women knowing full well this is going to be a ride through hell keep having children?...You would think after the first one they would call it quits.”

“You (women) must get over it ,hence the way over population of this planet.

”...we have a niece that wants five and has three already her husband was done at two but it is her that wants to keep going why?

OK. Why doesn’t the husband take steps to try and prevent another pregnancy?

MrGrimm888's avatar

Sigh…...Must everything be turned into a gender battle? Such debate turns to argument quickly. And rarely is constructive.

If you were a man, would it not seem odd to want to avoid such pain, or question the pain’s need?

SQUEEKY2's avatar

@Dutchess_III If he did I don’t think he would ever get laid again.
But that is just my personal opinion.
He really is a good dad and truly loves his kids, but his job and schedule is probably going to kill him early and my niece fails to see that.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

@MrGrimm888 I too wonder why with the pain women have to burden why would they want more than one, and @canidmajor abruptly put it they get over it.
Or maybe they just forget, I will never know or have to bear that kind of pain, THANK GOD!

olivier5's avatar

One important factor here is that the first time is usually much harder than the next ones. I assume that by number 5, it becomes almost routine, unless the child sits with his head up or similar complications.

Length of my wife labour for our first kid: 6 hours. For our 2nd kid it was over in less than 2 hours. Good thing it was in the middle of the night… If it had been during rush hour, she would have had him in the car on our way to the clinic.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, we do, @SQUEEKY2. We get over it. My Gramma had 9 kids, in a farm house. The things we women go through today is nothing compared to the women of yesteryear.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@olivier5 For me, it hurt just as much the second time as the first. It’s not the baby coming out that is the most painful part. In fact, pushing the baby out is almost a relief compared to the previous pain of transition.

olivier5's avatar

@MrGrimm888 It seems to go against how evolution normally works. If I were a female, I’d be terrified to give birth. If I knew a 9 pound animal would have to tear it’s way out of my body, I would never have sex.

That’s because you KNOW that sex leads to pregnancy, but evolution has shaped the human body over millions of years BEFORE anyone was able to make the connection. So i don’t think that pain during delivery contradicts evolution at all. Humans have had sex over the eons because it was pleasurable, period, and most of the females involved had no clue that it would make them pregnant.

I just don’t get why this pain has to exist, what purpose it serves during the delivery.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Transition? Like the baby flipping before birth?

MrGrimm888's avatar

GA @olivier5 . Yeah. I guess we weren’t aware pregnancy was a result of sex until a few thousand years ago. A blink of an eye in evolutionary terms…

Like you said though, we share in confusion of why pain is required.

Dutchess_III's avatar

No, the transition contractions. There are 3 stages of contractions. Each stage gets progressively more painful and the contractions are closer together. Transition is the 3 stage…the baby is moving down at that point. The uterus is actually pushing the baby out. Jesus, the pain! But my births were pretty quick so I didn’t go through more than 5 or 6 of those nightmare contractions. I don’t think I could have lived through more than that! At least, it seemed like it at the time.

Dutchess_III's avatar

That’s like asking why pain is required when you have a charlie horse and someone punches the muscle that is spasming. Why is pain “required” in that situation?

janbb's avatar

Well, the baby’s head is big because we are smart mammals and the baby needs to stay in the womb a long time to survive post-birth. Contractions are needed to push the baby out; contractions hurt. It’s not that pain is necessary, it’s just a concommitent of the process.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yeah. Wouldn’t it be nice to be a kangaroo, @janbb?!

janbb's avatar

Yeah, you come with your own built-in Snugli!

Dutchess_III's avatar

And the baby is only the size of a golf ball when it comes out! I could do a golf ball during lunch.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Ah. I didn’t think about marsupials….

olivier5's avatar

@janbb Still, why do contractions hurt so much? There must be an evolutionary advantage. Eg to pump adrenalin into your blood stream, to urge you to push as hard as you can. I don’t know.

If you are under anaesthesia, do you give birth just as fast and just as well?

janbb's avatar

@olivier5 I didn’t give birth naturally so I can’t answer from experience but according to others, getting a local anesthesia – an epidaural – helped immeasurably in making the birth easier.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@olivier5 Why do any muscle spasms hurt? I mean, have you ever had a charlie horse? They hurt. They just do.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@olivier5 There doesn’t have to be an evolutionary advantage. There only has to be no evolutionary disadvantage.

Dutchess_III's avatar

If the mother dies in childbirth, but at least one offspring survives, evolution is satisfied. It would prefer 2 or more to survive, though, and on average it does.

MrGrimm888's avatar

@Dutchess_III . I used to get cramps in my hamstrings. I swear, there are teeth marks on my coffee table from the pain. The cramps would only last about 3–5 minutes, but they were the worst pain in my life…

Those episodes seem like a dream compared to most births I have witnessed, or heard of.

My hat is off to females. Woooooof. Pregnancy must suck. It’s the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen a person/animal endure….

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, yeah. Cramping hurts. That’s the part that hurts during labor. Actually pushing the baby out felt good compared to the cramping.

Yeah, transfer that cramp you had in your tendon to your tender abdomen, and when it starts cramping, and at the peak of the cramp have some one gut punch you as hard as they can. That’s how I described it to my BIL who asked the day after I had my first one.

MrGrimm888's avatar

I believe it. Preach on sister. I couldn’t do it…

Been through hell, and then some physically.

But carrying, and having, and raising a child like females do, is impressive.

janbb's avatar

@MrGrimm888 Well, many Dads these days help in the raising department – we don’t have to do that all ourselves always!

Seek's avatar

With my first I was miserable for ten months, and then nearly died in the 3 hours postpartum.

When I was pregnant with my second, I was too afraid to be excited. When I miscarried, I felt guilty to be relieved that I didn’t have to go through the whole thing.

Breeding sucks.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Women go through some stuff.

Dutchess_III's avatar

LOL! Not bad for the “weaker sex,” hey @MrGrimm888!

MrGrimm888's avatar

:) I hope I’ve never given you that impression. Like I’ve said, pregnancy is the hardest thing I’ve seen a person endure, for the most part…

SQUEEKY2's avatar

If breeding sucks then why go through it @Seek ?
Just wondering not trying to be snarky or anything just simply wondering?
The pain you women are describing would kill me to put Mrs Squeeky through that.

Dutchess_III's avatar

No, you haven’t. It’s just in the American vernacular.

It depends on the person too. Mine were, relatively speaking, a breeze. Nothing like what @Seek went through. I was only in labor for a couple of hours. Doc showed up to catch, then got back to his breakfast before it even got cold.

My Mom was the same way. When I was born, in 58, they put her completely out. She didn’t like that, so the second time she told them not to do that.
So she’s quietly doing her thing, when she told the nurse, “I think the baby is coming now.”
The nurse just rolled her eyes and said, “Don’t be silly. You have a LONG way to go.”
My mother lets herself get pushed around. Finally she said, “No. I really think the baby is coming now.”
The nurse heaved a long suffering sigh and checked her just to shut her up and….oh shit! The baby was crowning.
Mom said they quickly administered pain pills so she was fortunate that she never felt the “real pain” of the baby coming out. I told her that part was a piece of cake, really, and she’d been through the worst of it already.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@SQUEEKY2 She didn’t know it was going to be like that the first time.
The second time she miscarried. I imagine that she’s been on birth control since then.

Why are you acting this way @SQUEEKY2? Do you think there something wrong with me for voluntarily going through it twice? The kids were worth it for me.
And I know her son was worth it for @Seek .

SQUEEKY2's avatar

No I don’t think anything is wrong with you as you have explained having the child was worth the pain.
I guess that explains why you endure it, why my niece wants five.
But remember it was seek herself that said breeding sucks, and I wondered if it sucks then why go through it.
You explained the child makes the pain worth it.
I wouldn’t want to put Mrs Squeeky through that pain is all I am saying.
Just one more reason we chose not to have children .

Dutchess_III's avatar

It sucked for her. She did not know it was going to be like that with the first one. Now she knows so she won’t do it again.

There does not have to be any pain involved in having a baby, @SQUEEKY2. Not today.

Seek's avatar

50 years ago I wouldn’t be alive today to consider doing it again.

And no, I’m not on birth control. I do Natural Family Planning, which (apart from one time when I lost count) has worked for the last eight years. I’m still not opposed to having another kid… I like kids – especially after they’re about four years old – but I won’t go through another delivery. I’ll have a planned, early c-section should I ever carry another to term.

There were many, many problems with my first pregnancy, most of them can be blamed on the fact that I had absolutely no trusted women to give me advice. I didn’t know throwing up many times every day for months was a medical issue. I didn’t know losing weight was a medical issue. I didn’t know having fainting spells was a medical issue. My midwife was a pie-in-the-sky hippie who was opposed to modern medicine, and that was the only person giving me advice. As a result I had a very complicated delivery that nearly ended in my bleeding to death.

That wouldn’t happen a second time, because I’ve been through the crucible and survived, and come to my damn senses.

Dutchess_III's avatar

And thank God we live in a time when a woman can choose not to get pregnant. It wasn’t that long ago that we didn’t even that that control over our bodies.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

@Dutchess_III Thank goodness America will be great again soon, and that burdensome responsibility will be lifted from the pretty little shoulders of all you ladies.

It’s a joke
A joke that makes me feel sick

Dutchess_III's avatar

Right? I can hardly stand to think of that jerk.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Seek “Natural Family Planning” is birth control.

Seek's avatar

Well, knowing which eleven days per month to keep my pants on isn’t what people normally think of when they think of birth control.

cinnamonk's avatar

@Seek‘s earlier comment is testimony to the absolutely medieval quality of maternal health care in the United States, which is one of the many reasons I have for not wanting kids.

cinnamonk's avatar

We have well-established medical guidelines for treating infections, setting broken bones, healing burns, removing diseased organs, performing blood transfusions, replacing hips, yet when it comes to one of the most common of all medical conditions we can’t agree upon a standard of delivery of care. Why is that?

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

@AnonymousAccount8 The problem isn’t well established procedures and it’s not unique to obstetrics. We have restricted access to health care and education.

cinnamonk's avatar

There are hundreds of birthing stories throughout the blogosphere where women and their babies almost died, or where the baby did die, during home birth, because they were attended by inadequate, under-trained midwives or duolas. Check out http://hurtbyhomebirth.blogspot.com/

cinnamonk's avatar

What does that signal if not a lack of nationally standardized, evidence-based maternal care?

MrGrimm888's avatar

^There are many different problems with maternal care. I blame religion for muddying the water, in an otherwise clear picture.

I guarantee you that the ignorant men who make decisions about women’s health(in the US government )would never stand for women making decisions about their gender specific needs…

The amount of regression in this country of late has been astonishing to me. It’s like we’re going backwards all of a sudden. WTF?...

@Dutchess_III . You’re a true testament to women’s strength. 4 kids? You’re a better person than I. I’ve been through some stuff in my life. I have lots of tattoos too. But, I can’t imagine being pregnant. Let alone giving birth. Kudos…

olivier5's avatar

According to the French wikipedia site, epidural anaesthesia tends to slow down delivery.

It could be that the pain is an incentive for the mother to push as hard as they can so as to make delivery as short as possible. That would be because the child’s chances of survival would be low in cases of long, protracted deliveries.

Just an idea.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@AnonymousAccount8 You misunderstood @seek. It wasn’t the health care in the US that let her down. She came from a bat shit crazy, uber-religious family and she put her life in the hands of a religious nut who believed in power of prayer over doctors.

I find the care of pregnant women in the US to be be fine. It’s after they have the baby that they run into problems.
During the pregnancy everyone writes it off to the baby. After delivery Mom has to pay for her own stuff, if she doesn’t have insurance.

MrGrimm888's avatar

^Care of pregnant women in the US ,I’m sure, is better on average as far as the rest of the world goes. But there are still problems with government intervention, as far as abortion and what women are told by their doctor in certain places. In some states, the doctor is required to guilt trip mothers considering abortion.

And then there are religious types who screw it up too.

There are babies born adicted to drugs as well.

Things are far from perfect…

cinnamonk's avatar

In Texas abortion providers are required by law to outright lie to women. This protects babies somehow.

MrGrimm888's avatar

^Yes. I am pretty sure we’re talking about the same thing.

Seek's avatar

For fuck’s sake.

I fell pregnant AFTER leaving my family and church. That’s why I had no support system.

My midwife was not religious, except for the religion of naturopathic midwifery.

If I had seen a doctor at all throughout the entire course of my pregnancy, I might not have had near the problems I did.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well I’m sorry @Seek. Your midwife sounded part and parcel like it came from your family. I thought it was an aunt or something.
The point remains the same. The health care in the US isn’t what let you down.

cinnamonk's avatar

This article sheds some light on how women’s health concerns after giving birth are frequently dismissed by their doctors, and birth injuries, like pelvic fractures and vaginal prolapse, are under-diagnosed:

“Last August, researchers from the University of Michigan likened childbirth to running a marathon — only before a marathon, you train — after giving 68 women MRIs seven weeks after birth. The MRIs showed that 29 percent of them had evidence of fractures they never even knew they had in their pubic bones, while 41 percent had undiagnosed tears in their pelvic floor muscles, which wrap around the vagina and anus.

Childbirth is a well-studied traumatic experience for women’s bodies, yet modern medicine still leaves far too many mothers debilitated, sometimes for the rest of their lives.”

Dutchess_III's avatar

And it kills. I don’t think many animals, outside of human women, actually die due to the trauma of child birth.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

@Dutchess_III The health care in the US isn’t what let you down

I take it you haven’t gone without health insurance.

Seek's avatar

Medicaid paid the midwife. Honestly, I think they should have required I be evaluated by an actual physician.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I have gone without health insurance @Call_Me_Jay. Two separate times in my adult life, 4 years each time. It was scary. My kids were always covered though.
I was referring specifically to @Seeks midwife. It was my impression that the midwife wasn’t medically or professionally qualified to treat pregnant women, or any one else for that matter.
She didn’t go through regular American health care channels, until she actually delivered. Those professionals saved her life.
The midwife is what let her down, not US health care.

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