Physiological blunting during pregnancy extends to induced relaxation

Janet A. DiPietro, Tamar Mendelson, Erica L. Williams, Kathleen A. Costigan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


There is accumulating evidence that pregnancy is accompanied by hyporesponsivity to physical, cognitive, and psychological challenges. This study evaluates whether observed autonomic blunting extends to conditions designed to decrease arousal. Physiological and psychological responsivity to an 18-min guided imagery relaxation protocol in healthy pregnant women during the 32nd week of gestation (n= 54) and non-pregnant women (n= 28) was measured. Data collection included heart period (HP), respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), tonic and phasic measures of skin conductance (SCL and NS-SCR), respiratory period (RP), and self-reported psychological relaxation. As expected, responses to the manipulation included increased HP, RSA, and RP and decreased SCL and NS-SCR, followed by post-manipulation recovery. However, responsivity was attenuated for all physiological measures except RP in pregnant women, despite no difference in self-reported psychological relaxation. Findings support non-specific blunting of physiological responsivity during pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14-20
Number of pages7
JournalBiological Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012


  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Heart rate
  • Pregnancy
  • Relaxation
  • Respiratory sinus arrhythmia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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