Influence of menstrual cycle on baroreflex control of heart rate: comparison with male volunteers

Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2003 Nov;285(5):R1091-7. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00162.2003. Epub 2003 Jul 24.


This study was designed to determine baroreflex control of heart rate (HR) to hypotensive and hypertensive stimuli during the early follicular (EF), preovulation (PreOV), and midluteal (ML) phases of the menstrual cycle and to test the hypothesis that cardiovagal reflex responses to hypertensive stimuli would be altered depending on the plasma estradiol levels in healthy women. In addition, these results were compared with those of male volunteers. Fifteen healthy women with regular menstrual cycles and thirteen male volunteers were recruited. Cardiovagal baroreflex sensitivity was defined as the slope of the linear portion relating R-R interval and systolic blood pressure triggered by bolus injections of nitroprusside and phenylephrine, from the overshoot phase of the Valsalva maneuver, and during spontaneous fluctuations. Three measurements were averaged in each test as a representative at each phase, and the order of phases was counterbalanced. Baroreflex sensitivities by the phenylephrine pressor test and Valsalva maneuver during the PreOV phase were significantly greater than those during the EF and ML phases but were similar to those of men. Depressor test sensitivities by nitroprusside and down-sequence spontaneous cardiac baroreflex sensitivity during the EF phase were significantly greater than those of the ML phase and of men. Significant correlations were observed between plasma estradiol concentrations and baroreflex sensitivities assessed by phenylephrine and the Valsalva maneuver. Our results indicate that baroreflex control of HR is altered during the regular menstrual cycle, and estradiol appears to exert cardiovagal modulation in healthy women.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiology
  • Baroreflex / physiology*
  • Estradiol / blood
  • Female
  • Follicular Phase / physiology
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Luteal Phase / physiology
  • Male
  • Menstrual Cycle / physiology*
  • Ovulation / physiology
  • Sex Characteristics*


  • Estradiol