Animals seem to give birth to their young quickly and in a relative easy manner – it’s only a painful birth when things go wrong.
The World Health Organisation estimates that about 830 women die every day because of complications during pregnancy and childbirth – and that statistic is actually a 44% reduction on the 1990 level. [i]
Professor Jonathan Wells, who studies childhood nutrition at University College London in the UK said:
The figures are just horrifying, it’s extremely rare for mammalian mothers to pay such a high price for offspring production.” [i]
But for human mothers why is childbirth so painful?
What happens to the baby in childbirth
When childbirth is broken down into the sequence of events it shows how complicated, and amazing, the process is:
The changing tilt of the human pelvic openings, from a wide open 10 degrees from the horizontal at the lower outlet while standing to a somewhat gravity-defying 60 degrees at the inlet (on top, while standing), presents additional challenges for the emerging baby.‘The Evolution of Childbirth?’ by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell [iii]
However, God’s design has provided features in both baby and mother to allow the infant to negotiate this path without any instructions or guidance in the normal, uncomplicated birth process.
The new-born’s skull is made of bones that are not yet fused, which allows the bones to overlap and reshape the skull to provide streamlining and moment-by-moment adjustment to the birth canal as the baby enters the outside world.
The anatomy of the pelvis, instead of making human labour difficult, provides an ideal route of exit.
The shape of the bony pelvis and the positioning of the pelvic muscles are such that the baby being propelled through the birth canal tends to twist and turn in the directions most suited for a safe and successful exit.
Multiple but limited options are often available, allowing for variation according to pelvic type and foetal size.
Each option available for a baby’s journey turns the baby’s head so that its smallest dimension enters the curvy birth canal at each level.
The infant’s head, having entered the pelvis looking sideways, must spin 90 degrees as the neck flexes and the head descends.
This rotation must then reverse while extending the neck backwards as the baby descends farther into the pelvis.
The pelvic shape forces the baby to finally twist as the head emerges to allow the roomiest possibility for the delivery of the shoulders.
The importance of these steps becomes more evident when they don’t occur normally.
The whole process would be an engineering nightmare to design due to the changing shape and other dynamic features of the component parts, yet in the majority of births for about six thousand years, the mechanism provided by the Lord has functioned nicely, albeit with the pain incurred in Genesis chapter three.”
Why hasn’t childbirth evolved to become painless?
Women have had to endure pain at child-birth throughout history.
Why do human mothers have to suffer so much more than female animals?
Surely if evolution was a reality, we would have evolved to a pain free birth?
The Lord said to Eve: ‘I will greatly increase your pains* in childbearing; with pain** you will give birth to children…’ “Genesis 3:16
Notice that two different words have been used
The second ‘pain**’ in the passage uses עצב ‘etsev, but the first * uses a related word עצבון ‘ itstsevôn.‘Pain in childbirth: result of the Fall or fear?’ [ii]
‘Itstsevôn is the one that’s also used of the consequences for Adam.
Hard labour in tilling the ground can be painful, especially to someone not used to it.
But with Eve, both related words are used, as an emphatic device that’s common in biblical Hebrew, indicating something stronger.”
If we look in the Septuagint translation of the Bible in:
Genesis 3:16 (c. 250 BC) has the Greek λύπη lupē for pain to translate both words, ‘itstsevôn and etsev.‘Pain in childbirth: result of the Fall or fear?’ [ii]
This is the same word as in John 16:21, where Jesus Himself said:
‘A woman giving birth to a child has pain (lupē) because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.’
Notice that Jesus accepted the fact that women giving birth suffer pain and anguish, and didn’t blame it on fear. Importantly, He said this was something that occurred during the birth process and was soon over.”
The only answer to ‘why is human childbirth painful’ which makes sense is the one found in Genesis in the Bible, which says that it is a direct consequence of humanity disobeying God.
I started on my Faith Journey in 1976 whilst on my sandwich year from college.
Since then I’ve not been restrained to any one denomination – believing that local Church is always important. Through career moves and life changes this has enabled me to play a part in the Assembly of God Church, Elim, various New Church Groupings, Brethren, Anglican and Baptist Churches.
I am married to Jackie and we live in Cambridgeshire in the UK.