As you may have heard, having a baby hurts. Natural childbirth advocates have long argued for the lemonade benefits of labor pain, claiming that it adds to the experience and can even result in sexual pleasure and aid in the hormone release that helps a mother bond with her baby. However, a new study, discussed in Salon, suggests that in fact the excrutiating hours of pain are really a vestigial response that serve no actual function. Great; let's go tell that to Milla Jovovich, who just spoke about her 72-hour labor! So why does everybody still hurt?Salon's Dr. Amy Tuteur points out that pain is not normal; it's a warning impulse designed to protect our survival: "At the level of the skin, pain tells us what is safe to touch and what is dangerous. At the level of bone, the pain of a broken bone is so great that it forces immobility, and that probably helps the bone to heal properly. The pain of disease makes people search for ways to diminish the pain, and perhaps improve survival from." So what possible purpose could hours of exhausting agony serve? Well, as we all know, lots of mothers and babies die in the birth process; in a word, it's dangerous. "Evolution would certainly have favored strategies that lowered the risk of death. Perhaps labor pain, like all other forms of human pain, existed to warn women to seek assistance." In addition to the physical assistance needed to deliver a difficult birth, it's possible that women felt an instinctive desire for support and companionship during labor. In turn, some argue, this impulse towards socialization could have enhanced these women's — and their offspring's — fitness for evolutionary survival, since loners didn't exactly thrive during the Ice Age, etc. As a quoted Scientific American article puts it, "Taking into consideration the evolutionary advantage that fear and anxiety impart, it is no surprise that women commonly experience these emotions during labor and delivery." While it's kind of depressing to think the pain of labor might not serve much function — most of us don't exactly need to be in agony to not want to give birth alone in the woods — I really like the idea that nature favored drama and emotion over self-containment. While one assumes a measure of independence, toughness and self-sufficiency was a given in the bulk of evolutionarily successful humans, the Very Special Episode virtues of knowing when to ask for help is apparently more than a societal platitude. And although the article doesn't get into it, it does seem like getting pregnant can be so fun and easy that it might not be a bad idea, evolutionarily speaking, to make part of the process slightly less appealing to women whose bodies are at risk in pregnancy — or, more topically, to young girls who waltz blithely into pregnancy. Philosophically speaking, most people don't seem to have a problem with birth being a Big Deal, and hey, all those benefits still haven't been totally debunked. In the meantime, good to know an Epidural doesn't exactly go against nature's plan — assuming, that is, someone else is administering it. Why Does Childbirth Hurt? [Salon] Related: Milla Jovovich Recalls 72-Hour Labor As Daughter Turns 1 [People]
I'm sorry, but this is complete BS! The pain of labor is a natural part of the muscle movement and subsequent information-relaying to the brain required to move the baby down the birth canal - it's just the same only worse as period cramps, which also are a result of a PERFECTLY NORMAL BODILY FUNCTION. Just because you don't like it, doesn't make it unnecessary. The pain women feel in labor is part of their body preparing their child for living in the world outside the placenta: labor gives babies head massages during the labor that help prepare them for breathing oxygen and move fluid out of their lungs. When you remove the pain from the labor, women's bodies become confused and have much more problems with moving the child down the canal. That's why so many women stop labor after having epidurals and then have to have their labor re-started by doctors. But pain is just a part of life. Get over it.