Science may have uncovered the key to a pain-free childbirth

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  • It's thought that a new study may have uncovered the key to a pain-free childbirth.

    New research, conducted by the University of Cambridge, has suggested that the level of pain felt during childbirth varies from woman to woman – and it’s down to genetics.

    Scientists analysed a group of women, including some that didn’t receive any pain relief when they gave birth.

    It was found that many of the mothers who were able to endure childbirth without the need for pain relief possessed a specific gene mutation that is only carried by around 1% of females.

    The genetic variation, known as KCNG4, controls the production of a protein that controls the electric signal that flows along nerve cells.

    It is thought that this could impact the nerve cells and their ability to be “turned on”, thereby acting as a “natural epidural” during labour for women carrying the gene sequence.

    READ MORE: Men can now pay to experience the pain of childbirth

    Credit: Getty

    The study’s participants were also tested on their pain thresholds by having their hands places in iced water and heat applied to their skin – it was also found that those who didn’t use childbirth pain relief had higher pain thresholds in these instances.

    “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,” said Dr Michael Lee.

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

    “The genetic variant we found in women who feel less pain during childbirth leads to a ‘defect’ in the formation of the switch on the nerve cells,” added Dr Ewan St John Smith.

    “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.”

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