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Some Women Are Immune To The Pain Of Childbirth, New Study Finds

Some Women Are Immune To The Pain Of Childbirth, New Study Finds

A new study has found that some women are completely immune to the pain of childbirth, thanks to a gene that acts as a natural epidural.

Yep, while the majority of us are geared up for the inevitable pain of pushing something the size of a watermelon out of our nether-region, scientists have now discovered that some women have a high enough pain threshold to numb the agonies of giving birth.

Please, god...let that be us!

The researchers, from Cambridge University, have said it may all be down to a key genetic variant that limits the ability of nerve cells to send pain signals.

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Some women don't feel labour pains (Credit: Knocked Up/ Universal Pictures)
Some women don't feel labour pains (Credit: Knocked Up/ Universal Pictures)

It is estimated 1 in 100 women carry this pain-defeating genetic variant.

Now, scientists are hoping this gene could be the key to easing childbirth pain for all women.

A group of women were recruited and characterised by Cambridge University scientists on the basis they carried their first-born to full term, and did not request any pain relief during an uncomplicated vaginal delivery.

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Dr Michael Lee, from the Division of Anaesthesia, conducted a number of "pain" tests on the women, including applying heat and pressure to their arms and getting them to plunge their hands in icy water.

Compared to a control group of women that experienced similar births, but were given pain relief, the test group showed high pain thresholds for all of the tests.

Some women felt no pain in labour (Credit: Pexels)
Some women felt no pain in labour (Credit: Pexels)

The researchers said there were no differences in the emotional and cognitive abilities of either group, thus the only difference was in their ability to feel pain.

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Dr Lee explained: "It is unusual for women to not request gas and air, or epidural for pain relief during labour, particularly when delivering for the first time.

"When we tested these women, it was clear their pain threshold was generally much higher than it was for other women."

Meanwhile, Professor Geoff Woods, from the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research, found those in the test group had a higher-than-expected prevalence of the rare gene, named KCNG4.

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Only one per cent of the female population actually have the genetic variant, which controls the electric signals in our nerve cells.

Dr Ewan St John Smith, senior co-author of the study, explained: "The genetic variant that we found in women who feel less pain during childbirth leads to a 'defect' in the formation of the switch on the nerve cells.

"In fact, this defect acts like a natural epidural. It means it takes a much greater signal - in other words, stronger contractions during labour - to switch it on. This makes it less likely that pain signals can reach the brain."

Those lucky women!

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Only one per cent of women have the gene (Credit: Friends/ Warner Bros)
Only one per cent of women have the gene (Credit: Friends/ Warner Bros)

Professor Frank Reimann, co-author, said: "Not only have we identified a genetic variant in a new player underlying different pain sensitivities, but we hope this can open avenues to the development of new drugs to manage pain."

Professor David Menon, senior co-author, said: "This approach of studying individuals who show unexpected extremes of pain experience also may find wider application in other contexts, helping us understand how we experience pain and develop new drugs to treat it."

The research was published in journal Cell Reports.

Featured Image Credit: Warner Bros

Topics: Pregnancy, health news

Joanna Freedman

Joanna is a journalist at Tyla with a particular interest in highlighting women's issues and telling inspiring first person stories. She's also their resident foodie, and loves covering exciting new beauty launches, too. Contact her at [email protected]

 

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