Genetics and Labor Pain Behavior

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: Labor may perhaps be the most painful a woman might experience, although characterized by large inter-individual variability. The perceived pain during labor is the result of diverse factors, i.e. her previous pain experiences, the analgesia she receives and maybe also her genes. The overall aim of this thesis was to investigate biological and psychological mechanisms underlying inter-individual differences in labor pain related behaviors.The mechanisms that characterize endogenous pain relief during labor are not fully understood, though it is known to be partly explained by the effects of ?-endorphin (BE). BE plasma levels were followed longitudinally in a cohort of pregnant women and were found to remain unchanged between early and late pregnancy, although with a nadir in the beginning of the third trimester. Furthermore, women with low levels of BE in plasma at the end of the third trimester, required second line labor analgesia to a significantly higher extent than women with normal levels.In a population-based sample of 814 pregnant women we investigated if inter-individual differences in labor pain related behavior was influenced by the pain-protective single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) combination of guanosine triphosphate cyclohydrolase (GCH1) and the opioid receptor µ-1 gene (OPRM1) A118G SNP. We identified a possible association between the pain-protective SNP combination of GCH1 and use of second line analgesia. No association was found between the OPRM1 and use of analgesia or labor pain related behavior.The association between self-rated antenatal depressed mood and anxiety in relation to pain behaviors and self-reported pain during labor was investigated. We found that depressed mood during pregnancy is associated with early arrival to the delivery department, whereas antenatal anxiety is associated with increased self-rated pain prior to labor analgesia. In conclusion, although an increasing number of studies strongly suggest that genetic predisposition plays an important role in pain and pain-related mechanisms, GCH1 and OPRM1 has little to offer in terms of individual counseling on labor analgesia. To enable the future use of genetic variability for pre-labor testing and counseling, a number of different genes reflecting pain mediation pathways, involving biological and psychological mechanisms, need to be analyzed in combination.