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Masha

Targaryen's hard childbirths

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This topic probably has been beaten to death, but why some Targ generations have hard/horrible childbirths and others are pretty normal? If Targ's genetics are affected by Dragons and magic, shouldn't they have problems with childbirth ALL the time?

Maegar's brides all had horrible childbirths and many even died with stillborn children.

Jaeherys and Alyanna had maybe 5+ children and Alyanna lived to old age and there is no mention of hard childbirths.

Viserys' children were a mixed lot. His Arryn wife died in 2nd childbirth and Rhaenara had 5 healthy boy children and then barely survived the birth of the last. Alicent had 3 healthy kids and Helaena had 3 healthy children.

Aegon III and Viserys II all had healthy children.

Aegon IV and Naerys had 2 children, but Naerys nearly died in all childbirths and had at least one stillborn child.

Then from Daeron II thru Aegon V, Targaeryens all had a lot of children and no known problems in childbirths. Daeron had 4 children with Mariah, Maegor II had 6 children with Dyanna Dayne, and Aegon V had 5 children with Betha. 

Aerys II >>>Rhaella is known for having extremely hard childbirths and multiple stillbirths, same for Rhaegar with either Elia, who nearly died twice and Lyanna who did die.

Dany barely survived the birth of her child. And at this point, I am even not sure if Maegi woman is to blame for that

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Yes, it seems like the more evil or mad the Targ king the worse the childbirths. Can't just be incest in the bloodline leading to miscarriage/deformity, since brother-sister marriages often produced fairly healthy children. It's also interesting that in a lot of cases the more insanity increased, the worse the births. Aegon IV (Naerys' husband) and Aerys the Mad King both grew steadily more insane over time and the births grew harder for their wives. Maegor I was considered insane and dark from the start, and all his wives suffered in childbirth.

1) It may have just been embellishment in later historical records to emphasize the "cursed" aspect of bad kings. But the fact that these miscarriages and difficult births likely really happened and Maegor I had no natural heirs makes this less convincing. 

2) Maybe there was really something linked to magic in the Targ bloodline. A more insane or evil Targ ruler also embodied or triggered dark magic, and this was passed on to children/fetuses in the womb or at birth, hence difficulties. Maegor I's mother was supposed to dabble in the dark arts after all. So insanity increases and this creates corresponding problems in childbirth. We'd have to know more about the nature of magic in their blood to really substantiate this one.

3) Some dark mage was at work from the outside, so that at birth even healthy children to decent kings would appear as a monster (glamor or real). This might be Dany's case, and maybe some other kings. So they were not insane/evil always, but due to dark magic they become insane/evil, and at the same time the mage curses their births too so the children die in the womb. If I recall correctly Dany knew when the child was kicking in her and alive, and is aware that it died. So birthing a scaled maggot-ridden monster that was long dead seemed more like a lie, or Mirri Maz Durr's work. Glamor, perhaps, or really changing the child. In Dany's case she gets rid of Mirri and so saves herself from insanity, but other kings may not have been able to find their mages, or may have fallen victim.

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One thing important to note is genetics and such don't perfectly correlate from ASOIAF to our world. Incest seems to have different consequences (sadism instead of physical deformity seems to be a recurring trend) and the expression of traits don't follow the same patterns (Targaryen and Lannister features dominating their houses for hundreds of years, Baratheon genes being super-powered, etc). 

That being said, I think it's safe to say childbirth is probably just as risky in ASOIAF as it has been in our world up until modern history. For the dominating species, we are remarkably terrible at this whole reproduction thing. Women's hips are quite narrow to give birth, which is why our babies are born "premature" compared to a lot of other species. (Think how many can walk hours after birth, while we're left helpless for months and months). Childbirth kills. It has been dangerous for the mother and child up until very recently (especially for younger mothers -- Lyanna), and probably answers the majority of your examples.

Viserys's wife dying from childbirth can easily be explained without magic (because, well, it happens). Naerys and Elia are both described as having weak constitutions, so childbirth would've been even more dangerous for them, and wouldn't have anything to do with the genetics of their babies. Even for Rhaella, a seemingly healthy woman, it doesn't seem that strange to me that she'd have many difficult pregnancies and miscarriages. Even today, the miscarriage rate for known pregnancies is about 10-20%, and that's with all our fancy modern technology and healthcare. Westeros didn't have any of that, so I don't think there's anything strange about Rhaella having difficult pregnancies. 

Of course, there'd also be some people who didn't have issues with pregnancies. (Basically everyone else you mentioned, minus Maegor and Dany who I'll get to). Maybe some of the pregnancies were difficult, but no one wrote it down because the babe and mother lived, so all was well? Either way, for the most part, I don't think we can make any connection between magic and the Targaryen reproduction issues. The issues they dealt with, for the most part, were pretty standard.

Now, there are three exceptions to this: Maegor I, Rhaenyra, and Daenerys. All of them gave birth to/sired children born deformed, scalely, strangely dragon-ish. This might be an example of their strange genetics taking hold and showing themselves. But three out of dozens of Targs doesn't make for a compelling "Every Targaryen has defects" theory. It could be one of those things that just happens sometimes, although in the case of Maegor and Daenerys, we have been provided with possible explanations for the defects (Tyanna poisoning Maegor's other wives and Mirri Maz Duur). There is no reason to think all Targaryens would be affected by their unique genetics. 

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9 minutes ago, Alexandros_of_Lys said:

Either way, for the most part, I don't think we can make any connection between magic and the Targaryen reproduction issues. The issues they dealt with, for the most part, were pretty standard.

Now, there are three exceptions to this: Maegor I, Rhaenyra, and Daenerys. All of them gave birth to/sired children born deformed, scalely, strangely dragon-ish. This might be an example of their strange genetics taking hold and showing themselves. But three out of dozens of Targs doesn't make for a compelling "Every Targaryen has defects" theory. It could be one of those things that just happens sometimes, although in the case of Maegor and Daenerys, we have been provided with possible explanations for the defects (Tyanna poisoning Maegor's other wives and Mirri Maz Duur). There is no reason to think all Targaryens would be affected by their unique genetics. 

I agree there probably isn't enough data to substantiate the link between magic and childbirth difficulties. The few cases we have, however, are pretty strange and I think GRRM does mean to imply that there is some link between magic in the blood or elsewhere, increasing anger/insanity and dark birth (he's not one to give a representative sample to support anything, so we work with what we have).

Maegor I is noted as very dark and insane from the start. Rhaenyra is fine and has healthy children until she loses the throne to her brother; she then supposedly births a monster (it sounds like stress would likely have brought on miscarriage, but if the child was really seriously deformed than that's different from a healthy child suffering a sudden turn and being born dead). Dany also feels her child kicking and healthy until Drogo is stricken and Mirri steps into the scene, then all of a sudden it's a maggot-ridden monster. I would hardly call a sample of 3 representative, but the parallels are odd and in ASOIAF are emphasized enough to seemingly count for something. 

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@Alexandros_of_Lys

Sure, and I liked the points you raised a lot -- thanks for the post :)

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It's an interesting topic which I think has multiple answers. 

1. Childbirth is risky,  and some women give birth more easily than others. There are many reasons why childbirth can go wrong that are normal real world reasons that also happen in the books. Especially without modern technology,  very young mothers who aren't fully grown and ready to bear children yet. 

2. Some of the wives of the more crazy Targ kings might have taken moon tea, which would lead to miscarriages,  and could potentially damage the womb as well,  like with Lysa Arryn. I don't think I'd like to have a baby with a crazy rapey madman. 

3. Some of the babies might have been deformed and stillborn because of the incest. This is something that happens in the real world as well,  and although not many deformed living targs were born,  it doesn't mean that some of the stillborn ones couldn't have been caused by incest. 

4. I believe the babies that were born truly monster like with wings and scales and stuff are the result of some sort of curse,  like with Dany, but i think these were rare exceptions,  and most were the result of the above. 

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