This little bugger is capsaicin. My search through the literature for something interesting to say about this molecule was quite fruitful, but considering I have a lot of mama followers out there, I thought I would veer towards how its receptor is thought to be responsible for that motherf&$@er we call labor pain.
Capsaicin snuggles up with a protein called TRPV1, which is found on many nerves throughout our body. When the right stimulus activates TRPV1, we feel an intense burning pain. It is a nociceptor, which is fancy science speak for something that warns us when something bad is happening to our body, like getting burnt, frozen, cut, or hit. In addition to heat above 109F/43C, some chemicals like capsaicin can also stimulate TRPV1.
Though when in labor, your body doesn’t flood your baby maker with ghost peppers, a study found that TRPV1 and associated nerves are what may be responsible for cervical ripening and the feeling of a burning pitchfork being inserted into your abdomen and rotated during every contraction.😂(they did not describe labor pain that way, I took some artistic license based on my experience)😂💪🤱. Though normally TRPV1 is found all over your body, in late pregnancy and labor it essentially disappears from the body and is only found around the cervix. It is fascinating that our bodies transform so much during pregnancy, and it is exciting that one day we may discover why the f$&@ labor decided it needed to hurt so bad.
Tingaker, et al. Influence of pregnancy and labor on the occurrence of nerve fibers expressing the capsaicin receptor TRPV1 in human corpus and cervix uteri. Reproductive Bio and Endocrinology 6:(8) 2008
Frias and Merighi. Capsaicin, Nociception and Pain. Molecules. 21(6), 797. 2016