Childbirth pain: All for nothing?

10.28.08 The natural way not always what moms imagine


We all know that childbirth can be painful and messy—but also powerful and life-changing. The natural childbirth camp has been touting the benefits of labor pain. They say it enhances the experience, can result in sexual pleasure and also aid in the release of a hormone that helps in the mom-baby bonding process.

However, a recent discussion at the online magazine Salon touches on a basic premise: Maybe there's no point to it. A study suggests those long hours of pain are a rudimentary response that serves no actual purpose or function. Well, that's one way of looking at it.

In a Scientific American study, experts point out that pain is not normal. Instead, it serves as a warning to protect our survival as humans. For millions of years, primates have secluded themselves out in nature when it comes time to give birth. Human beings are the only primate species that regularly seeks assistance, comfort and reassurance during labor and delivery. So the study asked: When and why did our female ancestors abandon their unassisted and solitary habit? The signs point to the difficult and risky nature of human birth, researchers found.

Experts suggest that it's natural selection. Pain, fear and anxiety more likely drove their desire for companionship and security—basically, there's your reason. How she deals with that pain is every woman's prerogative.

From traditional to alternative, there's a world of choices in childbirth methods and education. For a guide to finding a happy fit for you, check out Have It Your Way.

Maria Vega is Fit Pregnancy magazine's copy editor. She's not a fan of pain.