Reproduction: Pleasure and Pain

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rinkytink | 14:37 Mon 02nd Jun 2003 | Body & Soul
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The act of human reproduction (or indeed any other animal species) is a pleasurable experience. This is so that a given species will want to reproduce and propagate that species. Why then is it so painful (especially in Humans) to give birth ?
Surely it would be far better for reproduction purposes if giving birth was a pleasurable experience.
This is a genuine question - just wondered why ?


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because also, why do farmer's have to assist when cows etc give birth? evolution? They [cows etc] must have done it naturally without assistance from man at some pont.. my guess is evolution and that human birth used to be not painful. more anyone?
The pain is caused, I think, by nearby nerves being triggered. If these nerves did not exist, you wouldn't be able to feel any pain during childbirth, but then wouldn't the whole area be insensitive altogether? It would be dangerous if there was a lack of sensation because then you wouldn't be able to tell if you were injured, etc., so overall it's better to keep the nerves and bear the pain (before you say, yes it is easy for me to say that, being male.) The reason there is no temporary pain relief, such as a natural anaesthetic, is due to it having never evolved into our DNA; - probably because there is almost no advantage in it from a survival point of view.
ive had this explained to me ( by my midwife) as follows. before we evolved to walk on two legs, childbirth was relatively painless, since then humans have evolved incredibly fast. there are two factors at play here. first off the internal factor is that our brains / skulls have become to large (even as babies) for the process to go smoothly and then there is the external factor which is that our pelvises have evolved to enable us to walk on two legs more efficiently and that this has restricted our ability to give birth too. These two factors mean that humans have the most painful childbirth experience in the animal kingdom and presumably in a few more thousand years we won't be able to do it at all. in addition to all this, i've also been told that humans were one of only a few species to experience pleasure during sex, and certainly one of the only species that has sex purely for pleasure, what do the rest of you know? also it's pretty irrelevant to mother nature whether the birth is pleasureable or not, once your pregnant the baby will come out pain or no pain, the pleasure is the trick to get the baby in the first place.
My sister in law has just had a very difficult birth of her first child and it just brought it all back to me what a traumatic yet special time it was especially when you realise that she had given birth to something so beautiful that would change their lives for ever and I think because the birth process is so difficult it makes us appreciate and value life . I'm sure it is a painful process for animals as well but the animals that produce the most young are the ones who loose the most as well (rabbits mice etc.) so maybe they don't appreciate life as we do ?
I've also heard women say that whilst they remember that their first birth was incredibly painful, after they were through with it, the couldn't really remember it properly. My mother has commented that it was only when she had my brother that it suddenly came back how insanely painful it is!

I've also heard that it might be that the pain strengthens the bond between mother and child, although I'm not entirely sure how that works, since most women say they love their children whilst they're still inside.

Treaclefight is right that humans are one of the few species to get pleasure from sex. Monkeys and dolphins are the other two I remember that have sex purely for pleasure. On the other hand, some animal have pain during sex (not S&M!). For example, Cat's penii are barbed and it is the pain of sex that causes ovulation to occur. Yikes! It's no wonder they're so noisy when they get it on!
i haven't forgotten how painful it was! but it was worth it :-)
I'm not so sure about the pleasure aspect of conception! I'm not being bitter about my failed relationships there but what I mean is that I think that we humans and only a few other kind of animals (dolphins, chimps) actually do recieve pleasure from mating. The orgasm is not something experienced by every species.... or indeed everyone! I don't know if it's pleasureable-ness really increases the likelihood of reproduction in other animals (especially for the cat for example who has a barbed member) but they are more driven by an instinctual urge.
further discussion on the sexual pleasure tangent, apparently desmond morris etc say that sexual pleasure has an evolutionary advantage in that it encourages parents to stay together and both care for the offspring (which thousands of years ago would have been a huge advantage) rather than encouraging sex / reproduction itself. this leads me to the obvious conclusion that the invention of the vibrator is the primary reason for the breakdown of traditional family values in western culture and if we ban them then we can all stop worrying. ;-D
I wouldn't worry about future generations being incapable of giving birth, though. Humans have very nearly stopped evolving, right?
you might find this book interesting - i did! "A Visitor Within: The Science of Pregnancy by David Bainbridge"
The human mind's ability to blank out pain is by no means confined to childbirth. The mind natrually protects itself from pain memory - you cannot re-experience the pain of stubbing your toe ten minuts ago, but you can remember your first kiss from twenty years past. If mothers were able to re-live the pain of chioldbirth, every mother would have only one child. the evolutionary process means that mothers soon forget just how painful birth is, and can enjoy the conception and pregnancy, and put up with the birth, the end justifies the means. As to the pleasures of sex - for mosat animals it appears a purely instinctive action - but then again, some humans seem to think it's like that anyway!
Wasn't some of the blame Napoleon's [seriously] I vaguelly recall he wanted to watch the baby emerging, hence his missus had to either lay flat or in a birthing chair. Ask women who've given birth squatting, gravity helps a lot.
Because... No pain.. No gain??

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