Has childbirth pain outlived its evolutionary purpose?

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Why does childbirth hurt?

Natural childbirth advocates often claim that the pain of childbirth brings a variety of benefits. Some claim that the pain triggers a hormone cascade that is necessary for maternal infant bonding. Others insist that childbirth is not painful and is actually “ecstatic” and provides sexual pleasure. These varying theories hinge on the notion that the pain of childbirth adds something of value to the experience birth, and that the pain is good and beneficial.

Far from being beneficial, labor pain may now have only harmful effects.

However, evidence derived from the study of ancient childbirth suggests that natural childbirth advocates have it precisely backwards. The pain of childbirth is not needed to trigger good things, it is vital to prevent maternal and neonatal death, and is a vestigial response that is no longer needed.

Before we consider ancient childbirth, it makes sense to think about the role of pain in the human body. Pain is almost always a sign that something is wrong, perhaps seriously wrong. Indeed, pain is so important to human survival that it can stimulate reflexive reactions. Put your hand on a hot object and you will actually begin pulling it away before you consciously feel the pain. That’s because there are nerve circuits in the spinal cord that allow you to unconsciously perceive the pain and pull away, skipping the step of consciously noticing the pain so as to save time and limit damage.

When you think about it, there is no instance in which pain is not designed to protect against damage. 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 the specific problem. So, at the most basic level, there is no reason to believe that the pain of labor is beneficial in and of itself. Unless labor pain is different from all other types of pain of human existence, labor pain exists to warn.

Human childbirth has existed in its present form for millions of years. During that time, the death rate of both mothers and infants was extraordinarily high. 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.

Seeking assistance in childbirth may have lowered infant mortality by having help in situations like breech birth (which usually cannot be accomplished without some manipulation of the baby’s body) and may have lowered the death rate from postpartum hemorrhage, because the assistant could massage a woman’s uterus after birth. Assistance in childbirth must be very important from an evolutionary perspective because anthrologists report that all human societies have birth attendants.

According to Karen Rosenberg (a paleoanthropologist who studies human birth) and Wenda Trevathan (a biological anthropologist and trained midwife) writing in Scientific American special edition, New Look At Human Evolution, 2003:

… [W]e suggest that natural selection long ago favored the behavior of seeking assistance during birth because such help compensated for these difficulties. Mothers probably did not seek assistance solely because they predicted the risk that childbirth poses, however. Pain, fear and anxiety more likely drove their desire for companionship and security.

Psychiatrists have argued that natural selection might have favored such emotions—also common during illness and injury—because they led individuals who experienced them to seek the protection of companions, which would have given them a better chance of surviving. The offspring of the survivors would then also have an enhanced tendency to experience such emotions during times of pain or disease. 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.

How ironic for natural childbirth advocates if the role of pain in labor is to alert women to the inherently dangerous nature of childbirth so they will seek assistance. It would also mean that labor pain has outlived its usefulness. Far from being beneficial, labor pain may now have only harmful effects.

  • Nycticorax

    I just figured that childbirth pain was a result of the compromise between being bipedal versus getting the brain and skull to its largest size possible before birth. Thanks a lot, Evolutionary Trade-offs.

  • Cody

    OT but don’t we all wish we looked like that pregnant woman in the picture? That woman obviously tans. Do tanning salons let pregnant women tan?

  • StephanieA

    OT: we are doing our yearly education inservice at my hospital. There’s a “safe sleep” course and one of the points is that rooming in is the safest place for a newborn. Is there ANY evidence that rooming in is safe? Of course, I do not believe that it is safe in many circumstances, but my hospital insists that their rooming in stance is based on evidence. Is there any evidence for this? I would like to bring this up to my director but want to have some research/lack of research to support myself.

  • manders

    OT: please star if you would like Dr. Amy to write a post about the dangers (and quackery) of amber teething necklaces for infants- Yes, it has recently taken the life of an 18 month old toddler in Fontana, CA 16 days ago (http://ijr.com/2016/10/713235-toddler-suffocates-during-naptime-and-the-daycare-says-a-trendy-teething-accessory-is-to-blame/) and its time more mothers and people who care about the well-being of children and babies in general speak out against this dangerous nonsense.

    For those who aren’t aware of these extremely trendy teething necklaces, they are necklaces made from baltic amber that, according to the crunchy crowd, seep succinic acid through the skin by body warmth contact, causing an analgesic effect thereby relieving the pain of cutting a tooth. Yes, that is the actual explanation for how these things “work,” I did not make that up. There is a serious choking or strangulation risk to these necklaces! It infuriates me when I see babies wearing these things!

    • guest

      I’d love to see this.

      I’ve made my own jewelry for 18 years, and the thought of giving beads to a baby makes my skin crawl. My hands are always filthy dirty every time I make anything with them, they are almost impossible to clean straight from the factory, and if worn constantly they get disgusting buildup of skin and junk on them. Beading cord can readily snap, it has weaknesses in it, and most lots of beads have 1-2 with a sharp edge, no matter what material or make they are. These things are, at best, a horrible choking hazard.

      Also, “baltic amber” can easily be replicated with resin, so who the hell knows what some of these necklaces are made of.

    • fiftyfifty1

      Is teething even painful? I’ve never seen proof that it is. Neither of my kids ever showed a single sign that they were teething, just one day-Voila!- a new tooth would be visible. My mother says that all of her kids were the same. Of course I can’t remember getting my baby teeth, but I do remember getting my permanent teeth, 6 year molars, 12 year molars, wisdom teeth etc., and none of them ever hurt at all. I see babies in my practice sometimes for irritability, and their parents are convinced they are teething, but they won’t have any teeth coming in. And then I will see a happy smiling kid at a well check and notice that it is teething, and point it out to the parents, and they will be shocked because the kid has shown no signs. I think the whole thing may be a myth.

      Bad enough that babies choke on these necklaces. Especially stupid if the necklaces are being used to relieve pain that doesn’t even exist.

      • corblimeybot

        I’ve always wondered this, too. We were trying to fill out a cutesy chart of when our kid’s teeth came in, and we were never able to do it after the first few. Because she never gave us a sign she was teething.

      • N

        Teething is a good reason/excuse for every bad mood a baby is in. You can always blame teething.
        My first didn’t suffer that much. Only for his very first tooth was he in a very bad mood for a week. And after that week the tooth was out. The rest of them, they just were there at one moment.
        My middle kid had such an amber necklace. And she suffered more for more than one tooth. Perhaps because of the necklace? My last one is in a bad mood for every tooth he gets with and without a necklace. At first he had a necklace, but he didn’t like it and we gave up. No change.
        I think painful teething is individual. And the necklace doesn’t change anything about it. And it is a good scapegoat for everything.

      • When my wisdom teeth came in, it was excruciatingly painful.

        • fiftyfifty1

          Did you have enough room for them, or were they trying to come in but impacted?

          • They came in perfectly straight. No impaction.

            My oldest child didn’t experience pain when teething as a baby, but her six and 12 year molars were quite painful.

            My youngest had mild pain as a baby, and mild pain with his 6 year molars. He’s only 8 so we’ll see about the 12.

          • fiftyfifty1

            Interesting! It must really vary. Kind of like menstruation. Some people don’t feel a thing. Others are incapacitated with pain.

          • My dentist said that the later the teeth come in the less pain there is. No idea if that’s true or not, but it seems to match in our family’s experience.

          • fiftyfifty1

            Haven’t heard that before. FWIW, we tend to get our teeth early in out family.

          • Frankly, I think it’s the dentist’s personal experience, not scientifically proven–not that I looked into it. It’s not like I was going to do anything different. Teeth come in when they come in!

          • Erin

            My son was 10 months before he got a tooth and then had five or six appear all at once. If it wasn’t for the mouth full of teeth, you wouldn’t have known he was teething.

            The only one of my teeth which I can remember hurting was a wisdom tooth which really didn’t fit in my mouth. When I had it removed, the roots had grown out sideways because they couldn’t go down.

      • manders

        Modern scientific research concurs with your experience- there does NOT seem to be a connection between teething and anything systemic going on, all of the supposed pre-symptoms of teething (i.e. diarrhea, fever, vomiting, fussiness etc.) are NOT associated with the rupture of a tooth. There are no “predictors” to this

      • I think it might depend on the kid. I remember getting molars in too, and my gums were sensitive for a little bit while the teeth were pushing through.

        Or maybe there’s nothing to it! I have no idea. I wouldn’t be surprised if cutting teeth did hurt some babies, though.

        • Azuran

          Teething is probably more painful in some babies than in others. And there is also probably a lot of variation in each baby’s resistance to the pain. Some are probably very stoic while others are absolute crybabies.

          • Box of Salt

            Feminerd and Azuran “I think it might depend on the kid.”

            My stoic kid got crabby, drooled like crazy, and chewed on things when teeth came through. My complainer kid didn’t seem to notice. Of course, that might have something to do with the fact that the stoic kid generally got the full matching set of four pop within a week, while the other one had each tooth come in slowly, one at a time.

      • Mishimoo

        My older two got a little cranky, slightly warmer and chewed on everything they could grab while teething, but were otherwise fine. My youngest was inconsolable and unable to sleep, only wanted to breastfeed or be walked (we covered 14km out of the house that day, on 2 hours broken sleep) and I felt so silly when 3 teeth popped through and I realised that I should have just given him some nurofen for the pain despite the lack of fever. I did it for the next few lots of teeth and it made a huge difference.

      • guest

        Here’s the thing: we know a little bit about what teething feels like from adults. First, we have tons of verbal kids who get adult teeth around age six, so we no it isn’t horribly painful. But even if new teeth pushing out old teeth is just inherently less painful than brand new teeth erupting, we still have plenty of young adults who have their wisdom molars erupt where there has never been a tooth before. And we know from that that there can indeed be irritation and/or pain. Wisdom teeth are more likely to cause pain since they are so tricky to fit in human mouths. But I doubt that baby teeth coming in causes horrible pain in babies.

        • Sue

          “we know a little bit about what teething feels like from adults”

          THIS!

          Teeth emerge during the years that babies and toddlers are growing and developing, are exposed to a multitude of viral infections and go through putting-stuff-in-your-mouth stages and dribbly stages.

          Correlation, not causation.

    • Gene

      No objective scientific evidence that they work + choking and strangulation hazard = DO NOT USE!

    • manabanana

      Science Based Medicine sis a nice job debunking this bunk a while ago.

      https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/amber-waves-of-woo/

      • manders

        love this post! I have a 3 month old daughter, and I have a friend desperately trying to shove the use of amber teething necklaces and homeopathic teething tablets down my baby’s throat for when she begins cutting her first tooth- this article and her post on teething have excellent talking points about how these “remedies” have no evidence for working and are dangerous

  • Sue

    I’m not sure that everything in human physiology is adaptive. How about the pain of dysmenorrhea (period pain) for example? It’s the pain of the uterine muscle contracting, for physiological reasons, in order to expel the lining.

    Similarly, ovulation can be painful.

    Repeated skeletal muscle contraction can become painful if it exceeds its oxygen supply and starts producing lactate. I don’t interpret this as a “signal” that one should stop – it’s just the way our physiology has evolved. Not necessarily for any adaptive benefit, imho. So, labor pain may never have been adaptive – it;s just the result of an occasional need for very strong, prolonged muscle contraction.

    • Kerlyssa

      it may be adaptive in one situation/body part and not another. It’s not like all the muscles in the body are designed from scratch to fit their ‘purpose’.

    • Juana

      That’s what I’m thinking too.
      Plus, womens’ anatomy evolved to be a compromise between stable upright walking and babies with big-enough heads. If the baby needs to rotate and turn and be positioned just right under huge pressure so it can barely fit through, it’s hard to believe that the body parts it must pass wouldn’t hurt just because. Maybe that doesn’t do any good, maybe it just is. (Sometimes I wonder how much pain all that pressure causes to the baby while being born.)

    • fiftyfifty1

      “Repeated skeletal muscle contraction can become painful if it exceeds its oxygen supply and starts producing lactate. I don’t interpret this as a “signal” that one should stop ”

      It may not be a signal to stop, but it certainly is used as a signal that says “whoa, better pace yourself here.”

      • Platos_Redhaired_Stepchild

        Muscle pain could be a “signal” that you need potassium.

      • Sue

        Fair enough – but how could one do that for uterine muscle ischaemia/acidosis. Is that even a thing?

        • fiftyfifty1

          “how could one do that for uterine muscle ischaemia/acidosis”.

          You are right, you can’t just decide to “pace yourself” with involuntary muscles like the uterus (or intestines, and ureters etc). And acidosis/ischaemia is part of the pain when these involuntary muscles spasm. And the pain is why you seek help for bowel cramps, kidney stones, labor etc.

  • Platos_Redhaired_Stepchild

    A bit OT: Catholic Hospitals and their treatment of women aka Suffering Brings You Closer To God.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWuGgahmP7Y

    • Madtowngirl

      I was raised Catholic, and still sometimes go to church and even hold a few Catholic beliefs. Because of our insurance and the hospital choices in my city, I had to deliver my first at a Catholic hospital. And this attitude of these hospitals, and my own experience, I wish I could choose the secular hospital in our city. This video nails it.

  • Liz Leyden

    OT- A candidate for lieutenant governor in my state has come out as antivax. 🙁 http://www.sevendaysvt.com/vermont/lg-candidate-david-zuckerman-vexes-voters-with-vax-stance/Content?oid=3774701

  • Pain motivated the hell out of me. It motivated me to move around and get out of bed and squat and roar some more and get that baby out.

    Having had an epidural the first time, that only worked on half of me, I was not interested in going that route the second time. It sucks big time to be numb and tingly on half your body and in excrutiating pain, while your tailbone is breaking and you are ripping 4 degrees (stem to stern, if you want to try to visualize it). So, pain free, with #2, it was and she was out in 15 mins of pushing. I say, whatever floats your boat. I hated hated hated everything about that epidural, most especially it failing on my right side three times. I hated the numbness, I hated that I needed O2 while on it, I hated being stuck in the damn bed, I hated that it wore off three times. I hated feeling every single bit of tearing 4 degrees over several hours of pushing, with my tailbone breaking. I hated hated hated it. My experience is valid and it matters. I went without any pain meds at all the second time, my choice. It is a valid choice. Please don’t belittle people who don’t want an epidural.

    • corblimeybot

      I definitely don’t care if people don’t want an epidural, myself. I was wary about a needle in my spine, until I’d been in labor for 12 hours with no end in sight.

      But my overwhelming experience has been people shitting on me for getting an epidural because they were soooo tough and womanly and I’m not. I think that’s been the experience of lots of women who chose pain relief. Someone always shows up to tell them they aren’t real women, or that they’re wimps.

      • Yes, I do agree that the cult of the natural has some very nasty members. They ran all over me, when I was pregnant with #2, because I was using progesterone supplements to avoid miscarriage #4. Their attacks were painful to me. Luckily, that baby is now 9 years old and absolutely as healthy and beautiful and smart as can be. So, fooey on them.

    • Sarah

      But… who’s belittling though?

    • Sue

      Hi, Kathy. Your experience of a difficult first birth, and a much easier second one, is a very common pattern. One could only imagine what it might have been like to feel your “tailbone breaking” and feeling every bit of tearing with no pain relief of any kind. That’s essentially what this article is about – that excrutiating pain doesn’t seem to serve any purpose.

    • Kerlyssa

      but you DID want one. you wanted a working epidural, and unfortunately you didn’t get that. it’s completely reasonable to not want to deal w the epidural side effects and requirements if you aren’t getting proper painr elief out of it.

    • tariqata

      Speaking as someone who didn’t want an epidural as long as I felt like I was able to cope and didn’t get one, I at least don’t feel belittled by posts like this. I think there’s *so* much pressure to have a ‘natural’ birth that it needs to be said that it’s okay to want a pain free labour and to demand more effective relief when the available options don’t work. I want other women to make their own informed choices based on facts – one of which is that labour pain doesn’t appear to provide any benefit to mother or baby, so there’s no reason to forgo pain relief for that reason. That doesn’t mean that other reasons aren’t valid (my personal squicky feeling about big needles in my spine may be silly, but it’s real!) – but it’s a personal balancing of risks, benefits, values, etc., not a blanket reasoning that can be applied to all women.

    • Erin

      I don’t see anything belittling in the article. Not wanting pain relief is perfectly valid. Wanting and not getting or not wanting and having it forced upon you is another thing entirely.

      Pain motivates me too. It motivates me when I run to push my body harder, further. It makes me angry. I used to box a bit at University and every punch fed my rage, my blinding desire to obliterate my opponent, my drive to win.

      Labour though, labour broke me. 71 hours of multiple contractions an hour, the first hurt as much as the last as my big headed son tried to exit via my spine. My body shaking in pain as each contraction exploded into my back, sending shrapnel down my nerves into my thighs making them collapse under me. I moved as best as I could even with legs like a newborn foal. I contorted myself into positions the Cirque du Soleil would have been proud of. Nothing worked, I fought as hard as I could and for as long as I could.

      Sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard it hurts, how hard you try everything you’ve read or been told by your midwife, the pain is just pain.

      Had my son not been stuck on some random ridge of my pelvis and turned up in the first 20 hours, it would have been un-medicated. Had he turned up in the first 40 hours, it would have been without pain relief but that wasn’t my choice.

      Instead it took until I was fully dilated at hour 71 to get a working epidural and I only got it because my son was transverse at that point so couldn’t push.

      What is belittling is being told to ride the pain, that women have been doing this forever without epidurals, to focus, to go for a walk when you can barely stand but you go anyway, amniotic fluid pouring down your legs, clinging to your husband because you’re terrified of falling and hurting your baby.

      My experience of birth turned into something foul and revolting in part because of lack of pain relief. It’s hard to sleep or eat or drink when you’re in that much pain for that long and so I ended up dehydrated, exhausted and losing my grip on reality.

      We and our babies deserve better than that. If a woman doesn’t want pain relief, no one here (from the conversations I’ve seen) would be forcing it upon her or putting her down for her choices. However when the norm seems to be (at least in my country), not offering or trying to ensure you can’t have proper pain relief then something needs to change.

    • Heidi_storage

      Absolutely; your experience is valid, and it sounds awful. So sorry! I am glad that your second labor was so much better. I believe Dr. Amy delivered two of her children without pain meds, and I know several women who have done so by choice.

      We don’t want anyone to be shamed for her choice of pain relief during labor, whatever that looks like for her. For me–yay epidural! Doesn’t make me superior to women who don’t choose an epidural, nor does it make me inferior.

    • guest

      Please don’t invent strawmen.

  • J.B.

    Eh, seems a little far for me. By the same token, marathon running could be said to have outlasted it’s evolutionary purpose. After all, the first marathon runner died. But if people want to devote themselves to training, good for them.

    • Dr Kitty

      Can you have a word with my DH?
      He ran a marathon today, and while I would very much like it to be his last, he’d happily sign up for another (typical Irishman, he went straight from the finish line to the pub for a Guinness).

      My objections are more that the months of training eat into our family together time rather than concerns about his health or wellbeing!

      Even a 12 mile run means an ice bath, a hot shower, pre and post run yoga and it kind of wipes out the weekends.

      Of course it could be worse… our friend runs ultras and just ran 19hrs straight at a race in Spain.

      • J.B.

        Google helped me find this quote by Frank Shorter “Why couldn’t Pheidippides have died at 20 miles?” 🙂 Runners are crazy, they just are. It’s mostly a goal or a test. Personally I liked 13.1 miles when I could run – something that required effort but didn’t cause my body to break down.

        Then I started running again after 2nd child and continued until I realized duh I had a diastasis…

  • Mattie

    OT: I’m just having a lot of feelings right now lol today I sent off my health assessment form, to hopefully start my journey to become a mummy. I am hoping to do an ‘egg share’ program, so I donate eggs to a couple/person who needs them, and in exchange get one free IVF cycle. It’s gonna be a long road, but I’m excited. The control freak part of me is hating the not knowing if I’ll be accepted, but I’m trying to shut her up

    • Allie

      Wow, that’s exciting. My little IVF munchkin, who is snuggled right next to me as I type, is almost 4. We went through 3 fresh and 2 frozen cycles, with one pregnancy loss, before we hit the jackpot. The hardest part, I think (aside from the emotional, physical, and financial toll), was not knowing whether we would ultimately be successful. We had to learn to live with the uncertainty and lack of control over the outcome, so definitely try to get used to that. There are lots of success stories out there, though. If you are eligible for egg donation, your eggs must be much younger than mine were, so you’ve got that going for you. Good luck and best wishes!

      • Mattie

        Thank you 🙂 I’m 25 atm, so I hope I have good quality eggs for both me and the person I donate to. I want them to have a baby too lol

    • Sean Jungian

      Wow, how exciting, best of luck to you!

  • Therese

    I wouldn’t say that it has outlived its evolutionary purposes. How many more women would stay home and have unassisted births if birth was completely painless? How many more unintentional unassisted births would there be if women could just easily ignore the contractions they were having?

  • ot- vickie sorensen was found guilty of manslaughter today. it wont bring the baby back but its some form of justice.

    • DelphiniumFalcon

      Not that it’s shutting up the woonatics in the area about how the trial was somehow fixed and we “don’t know all the details” and “the baby would have died in the hospital, the doctors on the stands are quacks!!!111”

      The same people are organizing a showing of Vaxxed on the 3rd. I am severely disappointed in my community right now.

      • Clorinda

        There are people down that way who are relieved at the ruling. Those include others who were personally hurt by her negligence or who are dealing with the fallout of her negligence in the raising of some of the children hurt by her directly or indirectly.

        • DelphiniumFalcon

          I hope it’s just a select few who are extremely vocal then. I’m glad she can’t hurt any other families. Nice person or not, as “but she’s so nice!” is another thing that keeps getting thrown about, she is responsible for a preventable death. If she were driving a car and hit someone then got out and tried to perform CPR it doesn’t matter how nice she is, she still killed someone. Even if she tried to stop the death she still killed them.

          And then all the people saying it was the mother’s fault in this… I think it’s a terrible idea to trust a lay midwife but this woman is held up like some kind of sage that just knows things and can do no wrong. The mother trusted Vicki when she said she knew what she was doing as her health provider. Given Vicki’s reputation I can see how the mother was suckered in.

          • I don’t know where people get the idea she is nice from. I just got done writing an article about it on safer midwifery utah and she is so full of herself, congratulating herself on her charisma during the trial, posting about how qualified she is to deliver babies, and denying that she ever apologized to the family while the ambulance came. Her facebook support page is chilling. I get the impression that the lead detective and EMT didn’t care for her either.

            I don’t blame the mother at all. If you were going to home birth Vickie was the one everyone said to go to because of her 30 years of experience. The state is failing to make sure that midwives are qualified + that the correct equipment is available at birth centers. If the right equipment had been there the grandmother might have been able to perform CPR correctly, as a nurse she knew how. It is so many failures in a row that lead to the death and 100 percent of them are VIckie Sorensen’s. There are home birth fatalities where nothing could have been done to anticipate the emergency or get to the hospital in time but this is not one of those cases. There were many chances to transport.

          • DelphiniumFalcon

            I don’t get the whole she’s so nice thing either. I hear it but when I hear about her actual actions she seems terribly cold and self absorbed. Like she thinks she’s The Messiah of Southern Utah or something. Her supporters live in some alternate version of Southern Utah, I swear, from the weird shit they spout like all these supposed dead babies at the hospital that are “covered up.” Cover ups are the answer to everything around here. Gotta be something in the water here.

      • I’m so glad we do know the details, since there was reporting for every day of the trial. I was really floored by some of the testimony.

        • DelphiniumFalcon

          Yeah it was so much worse than I had originally heard. And then she tries to blame her daughter for why the resuscitation failed. She’ll throw anyone under the bus to save her skin.

          And still people come riding to her defense saying “Well it happened so fast and it was so stormy that day!” I remember that day. It was a bad blizzard but nothing out of the ordinary for a Utah winter. I’m not sure where this “near white out conditions” keeps coming from. I don’t drive well in the snow and as long as I took it slow I could have easily gotten from one side of Cedar City to the other that evening. Cedar City is only like five miles square. And Vicki Sorensen’s birth suite is right next to the freeway entrance and even without that it’s a three mile drive tops from her suite to the hospital via Main Street. There was no reason to keep the laboring mom there.

          • swbarnes2

            I would think that bad weather conditions would be grounds for a good birth center to say “Sorry, no births here today, since we can’t transfer in case of emergency in time. Go to this hospital instead, they support our work and will let us deliver there.”

    • Daleth

      Thank god for a rational and just result.

    • Amazed

      Not so fast. Let’s not be overly optimistic. Brock Turner could have served a good deal of years but he’s out, isn’t he?

      I’m just coming over from a site with just a few comments. Just a few but they got me enraged. Our favourite not-a-felon issued a judgment of how this was a travesty of justice. And a supporter of Sorensen who claims she wouldn’t homebirth soulfully explains how Vickie and her supporters sobbed for the baby at the trial. As if that automatically should let Vickie off the hook? She whines that while her loyalties are with Vickie, she feels much sympathy for the family. Err, Vickie tried to blame the family, remember? Oh never mind! And she finishes her defense with being sooo concerned that this witchhunt will further impede relationships between doctors and midwives. She only fails to mention her implied idea of said relationships: doctors should take the shit her beloved uneducated Vickie throws at them without complaining. Barf.

      You know, one of the reasons I won’t do any judicial documents is because there is the chance of me getting 5 years if a judge decides that I knowingly gave a wrong translation in anything court related. Now, this is a disgusting system because it is set in a way that lets translation agencies fake a translator’s signature under a text done by a student or virtually everyone. But the premise is interesting. A translation that someone decides you knowingly faked – up to 5 years. Knowingly endangering 2 babies and ending up killing one? We’ll see.

    • MWguest

      Oh, and speaking of shitty midwives: Barefoot Birth (the MW from FL highlighted on a post here a few months ago) recently posted on he blog about how hard midwifery is… FOR MIDWIVES.
      http://barefootbirth.com/blog/2016/9/27/harsh-realities-of-being-a-midwife-tampa-bay-home-birth-midwife

  • Irène Delse

    I like that theory. Of course, not everybody feels like seeking companions when in misery, but it’s a very common tendency. In childbirth, this behaviour may well have had adaptative value simply because the birth attendant is there to take care of the infant, making sure it doesn’t get cold or something, while the mother rests after her ordeal.

    • Maud Pie

      In childbirth, this behaviour may well have had adaptative value simply because the birth attendant is there to take care of the infant, making sure it doesn’t get cold or something, while the mother rests after her ordeal.

      This should be an argument against closing hospital nurseries and foisting neonate care on recovering mothers: Even Stone Age moms got more help!

    • swbarnes2

      FWIW, in Jared Diamond’s book (and I don’t know what his sources are) there are some tribes where women give birth alone. I think the stated reason is to encourage self-reliance, but it’s also probably to give the woman a chance to commit infanticide if she judges that, for whatever reason, that’s what’s best for her.

      • Spamamander (nasty amphibian)

        That’s a fascinating theory, and honestly it wouldn’t surprise me in the least. It’s a sad reality that in subsistence cultures that infanticide was often a method of ensuring the survival of those already able to help provide for the tribe.

        • T.

          Infanticide and killing of the elders (the last one less common) was widely practiced even in culture like the Romans… in pre-republican times, men and women past 60 years of age were likely sacrificed to Saturn.

          And infanticide was terribly common even up imperial days, even among ”rich” people. Alas, it happened a lot in many cultures… which often didn’t have abortion, or safe abortion techniques.

  • Cyndi

    Well, as a mom who had one saddle block back in the day, and 4 years later a wonderful and amazing epidural, “YAY for epidurals!”

  • GFeld

    Very intriguing theory. Maybe childbirth pain warns women to take precautions against getting pregnant again, as motivation FOR birth control? After all, if I had not had an epidural during my first baby’s birth, I might not ever want another baby after that. But then again, there’s an evolutionary advantage to having more kids (or is it less kids?)

    • Sarah

      Depends on your circumstances! The winner is the one who has the most offspring survive to reproduce in their turn, but that’s not always accomplished by having more kids.

      • Roadstergal

        Yes, having someone present to take care of your baby is a win for your genes, even if you die.

        • Isilzha

          And if the attendant is related to you a win for some of their genes too.

    • Roadstergal

      Problem is, ‘precautions’ don’t work unless you a: know how pregnancy happens and b: can control your insemination, and the first wasn’t the case for most of our evolutionary history, and the second isn’t a given even today.

    • Spamamander (nasty amphibian)

      I’m not sure- as gawdawful as labor is, it seems like there’s a kind of twilight amnesia that makes women willing to go through it all again, or else once we started understanding that intercourse= babies we might not have survived as a species.

      • corblimeybot

        I don’t know, that amnesia might apply to all sorts of pain. I have no real recollection of how much my butt surgery hurt, either. I remember that I was miserable, but it’s an intellectual idea now more than anything.

        • Sean Jungian

          Worst pain I ever had was sciatica – I was screaming like a fool in the ER until the doctor gave me a shot of morphine. MORPHINE! I think about it now and I just shake my head because seriously? But at the time, I had never experienced such pain (and I do regular exercises now to make sure I NEVER experience it again. I may not remember it crystal-clearly, but I remember enough to know I never ever want to feel that kind of pain again.)

          • corblimeybot

            Sciatica is the WORST. One of my friends was almost disabled with sciatica issues for a while. Horrible stuff.

          • Who?

            I had sciatica during an unmedicated labour. A v kind and patient student midwife massaged very hard during contractions. Horrible.

      • Are you nuts

        So true. I had an unmedicated birth a few months ago and it was awful. For the first couple days postpartum, when I would think about labor, I would literally start to cry at the memory of the pain. It was that bad. Now, 10 weeks later, I remember that it sucked but there’s no visceral “I’m never doing that again” reaction. If anything, I laugh about how I screamed like all those women on TV and in movies who I always thought were ridiculous…

  • sdsures

    Great post!