Gastric emptying and orocecal transit time in pregnancy

J Gastroenterol. 2001 Aug;36(8):538-43. doi: 10.1007/s005350170056.


Purpose: To evaluate the effects of pregnancy on gastrointestinal function, we determined gastric emptying time, orocecal transit time, and fasting gastrointestinal hormone levels (cholecystokinin, gastrin, pancreatic polypeptide, neurotensin) in 11 women with mild dyspeptic symptoms during the first and third trimesters of their pregnancies, and again 4-6 months after delivery.

Methods: After the women ingested a disaccharide solution, orocecal transit time was determined by monitoring breath hydrogen concentrations at 10-min intervals, and values were compared with the postpartum value. Ultrasound examinations of gastric emptying were performed during the same intervals.

Results: The half-emptying time and the final gastric emptying time did not differ in the first and third trimesters and postpartum, but gastrointestinal transit time was significantly longer in the third trimester of pregnancy than postpartum (100.0 min [range, 50.5-240.0 min] vs 70.0 min [range, 40.5-240.0 min; P < 0.05]), respectively. Mean plasma pancreatic polypeptide values were lower in the third trimester of pregnancy than postpartum. and a negative correlation was observed between pancreatic polypeptide levels and transit time in the third trimester (r = -0.65; P = 0.0261). The plasma levels of other gastrointestinal hormones did not differ in the various periods studied.

Conclusions: Our study shows that, despite evident dyspeptic symptoms, there were no significant alterations in gastric emptying or orocecal transit time during the first trimester of pregnancy. Conversely, in the third trimester, orocecal transit time was significantly longer.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Dyspepsia / etiology
  • Female
  • Gastric Emptying / physiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Hormones / analysis
  • Gastrointestinal Transit / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen / analysis
  • Lactulose / metabolism
  • Pancreatic Polypeptide / deficiency
  • Postpartum Period / physiology
  • Pregnancy / physiology*
  • Pregnancy Trimester, First
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Third


  • Gastrointestinal Hormones
  • Lactulose
  • Pancreatic Polypeptide
  • Hydrogen