Childbirth is the most painful experience of many women’s lives, but for a select few, the process is far less unpleasant. Researchers from the University of Cambridge have found that a small proportion of women with a rare genetic variant have a higher threshold for pain during childbirth.
The variant is present in about one in 100 women, and reduces the ability of nerve cells to send pain signals to the brain, acting as a natural epidural. The study was based on a group of women who all requested no pain relief during birth. These women were subsequently tested with cold water and exposure to confirm the results. All of the women analyzed shared the same single cell genetic variant.
The researchers have not only solved a mystery of rare birth with significant pain reduction, but also potentially uncovered a solution for more effective pain relief therapies. “Not only have we identified a genetic variant in a new player underlying different pain sensitivities,” said study co-author Frank Reimann, “But we hope this can open avenues to the development of new drugs to manage pain.”
Source study: Cell Reports – Human Labor Pain Is Influenced by the Voltage-Gated Potassium Channel KV6.4 Subunit