Maternal family history of hypertension attenuates neonatal pain response
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Reduced sensitivity to naturally occurring and laboratory pain stimuli has been observed in individuals with hypertension, high-normal blood pressure, and a family history of hypertension. The present study sought to extend these findings by examining the relationship between familial history of hypertension and pain responsivity in neonates. Eighty infants had intramuscular (IM) injections of vitamin K performed in the delivery room within 1 h of birth as per institutional practice. Video recordings of the injection procedure were used by trained observers to code infant pain responses using facial grimacing and cry duration. Prior to the birth of the child, the infants’ parents each completed a family blood pressure history survey and these responses were used to identify infants with and without a maternal and paternal family history of hypertension. As compared to infants without a maternal family history of hypertension, infants with a maternal family history of hypertension had significantly shorter crying times, F(1, 74) = 6.96, p = .01, η2 = .086, and marginally lower facial grimacing scores, F(1, 74) = 2.68, p = .10, η2 = .035, during vitamin K injection. The presence of attenuated responses to the IM injection in neonates with a maternal family history of hypertension provides important and novel evidence that reduced pain responding in individuals at risk for hypertension is not a learned response style, but rather may arise from prenatal or genetic influences.