Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Health and Movement Sciences

First Advisor

Roberta Newton


As physical therapists are becoming more involved with the pregnant population both in traditional patient care as well as in childbirth education, a better understanding of the influence of pregnancy on the pain system is needed. The purpose of this study was to determine if an endogenous analgesia system is present in pregnant humans as has been shown to be present in animals (Ginzler, 1980). Women's affective and intensity responses were measured during late pregnancy, labor and post-partum. Using a repeated measures design, fifteen women responded to thermal stimuli (43-52 degrees C) by marking a visual analogue scale. No significant difference was found to exist demonstrating that stages of pregnancy have no effect on subjects' responses to thermal stimuli.

Additional research has shown that levels of endorphins in the cerebrospinal fluid also do not change with stages of pregnancy (Steinbrook et al, 1982). This study provides a behavioral measurement of pain perception that supports the clinical finding that no endogenous analgesia is present in humans during stages of pregnancy. Lastly, by reviewing research examining levels of endorphins present in the plasma and cerebrospinal fluid during stages of pregnancy, this study also supports the growing body of knowledge which suggests that pain mediation by endorphins occurs centrally and not in the periphery.


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