Using a semiclassical, effective-state approach to laser pulse propagation in a dilute gas of polyatomic molecules, a numerical model of multiphoton excitation which includes quasi- continuum transitions is used to calculate the effects of coherent propagation on multi-photon absorption. The initial laser field is assumed to be a quasimonochromatic Gaussian envelope which is nearly resonant with a portion of the lower vibrational states of the molecule. The molecular model consists of a single ground state and several bands of discrete states which are successively connected via electric dipole transitions. This model correctly mimics some of the major characteristics of multiphoton absorption, such as power threshold, fluence dependent absorption, and complete population inversion at high fluences. The model also allows for the calculation of the polarization induced in the medium by the electric field, and the subsequent influence that the polarization has on the field. As the pulse propagates, the Rabi oscillations induced in the lower level states become encoded onto the pulse, creating a series of peaks and troughs similar to the behavior of pulse propagation in two-level systems. Another coherent propagation effect which can change the excitation process is coherent sideband generation. The temporal distortions and the generation of new frequencies results in changes in the population distribution among the states, as well as changes in the total population transferred to the quasi-continuum. The pulse reshaping occurs while the total fluence of the pulse is decreasing due to energy loss to the quasi-continuum. The effective increase in total population transfer due to propagation effects is offset by the decrease in fluence. The resulting transfer of energy from the pulse to the molecule depends strongly on the initial characteristic of the pulse. These processes play an important role in any system where the efficient transfer of laser energy to the medium is required, such as laser-induced chemistry and laser isotope separation.