It’s the age-old debate that’s divided the human race since time immemorial. Is giving birth more painful than being kicked in the balls?
The argument has prompted heated disputes between partners and turned friends into foes with both sides claiming victory. So science has weighed in, taking a deep dive into the mechanics of both childbirth and ball-busting kicks.
And the answer probably won’t put the debate to rest any time soon.
The question of whether giving birth is more painful than a kick to the testes has been tackled by AsapScience, a YouTube channel created by Mitch Moffit and Greg Brown. They decided to investigate the claim that getting hit in the testicles is one hundred times more painful than labour.
Is giving birth more painful than being kicked in the balls?
As it turns out, pain is subjective and difficult to measure. Our bodies have nociceptors, which are specialised nerve cells that react to pain, and these nociceptors only fire after a certain pain threshold is reached. Both childbirth and ball kicking trigger pain sensors in the brain, however, some of us can take a lot of pain, some only a little.
The claim that being kicked in the balls is more painful than birth can be traced back to a meme. It explained a human body can bear only 45 del (units) of pain. It goes on to say that while giving birth a woman feels up to 57 del of pain. The meme insists that this is similar to fracturing 20 bones at one time. However, the meme also claims that a kick to the balls is more than 9000 del, or similar to giving birth to 160 babies at once.
But here’s where the argument falls down. As AsapScience explains, there’s actually no measurement of pain called del. There is a measurement of pain called dol, but it’s not really widely used.
How do you measure pain?
Pain can be measured to some extend, by looking at how it’s created. Our bodies have nociceptors, which are specialised nerve cells that react to pain. While the other nerves in the human body respond to normal touch or temperature, these nociceptors only fire after a certain pain threshold is passed.
“Some of these nociceptors respond quickly, sending signals to the spinal cord and brain, which produce sharp and sudden pain, allowing you to react quickly. While others transmit more slowly and are responsible for the prolonged, dull, achy feel,” AsapScience explains.
Let’s take a look at the testicles. They’re an internal organ that are now outside of the body, and they’re covered with nociceptors. They’re sensitive.
“Furthermore, the testicles are attached to many nerves in the stomach, as well as the vagus nerve which is directly connected to the brain’s vomit centre. Which is why when hit, the pain spreads throughout the abdomen. The fact that testicles have minimal protection only strengthens the accompanying symptoms of nausea, increased blood pressure, heart rate and sweating.”
Ball-kicking pain and birth pain are completely different
Ok, so now we know that yes, it’s pretty painful to get a blow to the balls. So what about giving birth? While we don’t get any sort of direct blow to an organ during birth, what happens to our uterus actually triggers nociceptors and causes the same type of pain.
“Also consider that throughout evolution, female human hips have become smaller, while babies’ heads have become larger. And not to mention labour lasts eight hours on average, with a mixture of nausea, fatigue and pain. On top of it all, tension and stretching of muscle and tissue increase as labour intensifies, creating sharp and localised pain.”
And this is where it gets tricky. Both childbirth and ball kicking are painful. They both trigger pain sensors in the brain. But when we think about pain, it’s not just about what’s happening to us physically. As the AsapScience guys explain, pain is subjective. Some of us can take a lot of pain, some only a little. And then when you add in other factors like our mood, our previous experience of pain and even how alert we are, it means we all feel pain differently.
“It’s for this reason that so many attempts to objectively measure pain have failed.”
So, then which is actually more painful?
Don’t shoot the messenger here – but the AsapScience guys have actually called this one a draw.
“Pain is an experience that’s different for everybody. Suffice to say that both instances of childbirth and getting kicked in the balls can hurt a lot. So we call this one a tie.
“Apart from the fact that the experiences are completely different and there’s so many variables to consider. In some instances, a man could experience more pain than his female counterpart and vice versa. The main difference being one results in a newborn baby while the other results in potentially a decreased chance of having one.”
Something tells us mums aren’t going to agree with this scientific deadlock.
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