The Association between Progesterone, Estradiol, and Oxytocin and Heat Pain Measures in Pregnancy: An Observational Cohort Study

Academic Article


  • © 2016 International Anesthesia Research Society. Background: Hormonal action has been implicated as a possible mechanism for pregnancy-induced analgesia. Previous investigators have reported an increase in heat pain tolerance during labor compared with nonpregnant controls and postulated it was because of the hormonal changes during pregnancy. However, these previous reports did not include measurement of hormonal values. The purpose of our study was to quantitatively test if changes in pregnancy hormone concentrations correlated with changes in temperature ratings. Methods: This was a prospective cohort study consisting of 32 women scheduled for elective cesarean delivery at term between July 2010 and January 2013. Heat pain threshold and tolerance, estrogen, progesterone, and oxytocin levels were measured twice in each patient at term and again 4 to 8 weeks postpartum. RESULTS: All hormone levels decreased significantly between term pregnancy and the postpartum visit (all P values < 0.029). However, there were no statistically significant differences between term and postpartum heat pain measurements. The mean baseline heat pain threshold was 40.9°C at term compared with 40.3°C °postpartum (P = 0.47; mean change, -0.6°C; 95% confidence interval of change, -1.8°C to +0.7°C). The mean baseline heat pain tolerance was 46.1°C at term and 46.0°C postpartum (P = 0.59; mean change, -0.1°C; 95% confidence interval of change, -0.8°C° to +0.6°C). CONCLUSIONS: Our findings show that amounts of estradiol and progesterone changed significantly between the term and the postpartum visit; however, the thermal pain tolerance did not significantly change. In summary, we did not observe an association between hormonal changes and changes in pain threshold measures. This finding argues against the concept of simple progesterone- or estrogen-induced analgesia in humans.
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    Author List

  • Frölich MA; Banks C; Warren W; Robbins M; Ness T
  • Start Page

  • 396
  • End Page

  • 401
  • Volume

  • 123
  • Issue

  • 2