Sunday, January 2, 2011

The pain of being a red-head

What price does this beautiful hair have? Putting together the puzzle....
Recently I was reading an article on the Olympic skate board champion. It said that he experiences more pain than most people. Because he is always falling? No because he is red-headed. The gene for red-headedness, MC1R is linked to a gene for pain perception. Red headed people are more sensitive to pain and do not respond as well to narcotics. They do not respond at all  to kappa opioids (though neither do men). There is a stereotype of a 'red-headed personality' and it is not good. Perhaps being in pain more often makes them so crabby.

My first roommate in the hospital when I had Shanna was a red-head from our LaMaze class. She had characterized childbirth as 'no big deal'. I had expressed how shocked I was to experience so much pain when in class, contractions were described as 'tightenings'.Was I just a whiner? Did she forget in the last 24 hours of how much pain she really was in? Soon she began whimpering and crying. What was going on? Her milk was coming in and she was finding that painful beyond belief. I asked the nurse if this would happen to me. She said probably not, just that red-heads are always so super-sensitive.

So do red-heads have completely different perceptions of different types of pain? Both she and my own red-head seemed to feel almost nothing in childbirth (and no drugs either..not that they would have helped according to the articles I've read) but have an exaggerated  response to other pain. My father, a red-head, whined about everything. His father, however, was quite stoic despite being a red-head.

I was the first to break the chain of multigenerations of redheads reaching back to 18th century Scotland. My father by marrying a non-Celt put an end to it. But other groups carry the red-head gene too and thus Naomi.

I wasn't sad to see my red-headed roommate leave the hospital. I had a 'complicated' birth so I was there for 4 days. Soon I had a new roommate who now is one of my best friends.

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