[ExI] Subject: Re: Human extinction

Tom Nowell nebathenemi at yahoo.co.uk
Fri Aug 22 09:34:32 UTC 2008

Amara asked:
> Don't you think that it would be weird if humans evolved to 
> where we are today if every baby's birth was excruciatingly 
> painful?... Amara

Well, in the textbooks I've read, there are two viewpoints on this:
The evolutionary viewpoint shows how most species of apes and monkeys have hips much wider than a baby's heads, and so do not have painful childbirth. The exceptions are macaques (close match in one dimension, slightly painful labour) and humans (complete mismatch, baby has to rotate as it comes out, painful labour). The narrowing of human hips makes for better running speed when walking upright. Somewhere, the compromise between improving an individual female's mobility with her ability to push babies out became a very tight one.

Another viewpoint on painful childbirth is provided by psychology textbooks. When dealing with the subject of pain perception, there's usually a mention of "couvade" - 
There are also mentions of differing cultural traditions towards childbirth affecting the mother's experience of pain. Given how the human mind can modulate pain, it would be surprising if people didn't find ways to minimise the pain of childbirth. From this viewpoint, birth doesn't need to be excruciatingly painful, but a mother's expectations of childbirth can influence the pain she feels.


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