Rodent Estrous Cycle Monitoring utilizing Vaginal Lavage: No Such Thing As a Normal Cycle

J Vis Exp. 2021 Aug 30;(174). doi: 10.3791/62884.


The current methodology establishes a reproducible, standardized, and cost-effective approach to monitoring the estrous cycle of female Sprague Dawley (SD) adolescent rats. This study demonstrates the complexity of hormonal cycles and the broad spectrum of understanding required to construct a reliable and valid monitoring technique. Through an in-depth examination of principal experimental design and procedural elements, this description of the cycle and its fundamental principles provides a framework for further understanding and deconstructs misconceptions for future replication. Along with an outline of the sample collection process employing vaginal lavage, the procedure describes the mechanism of data categorization into the four-stage model of proestrus, estrus, metestrus, and diestrus. These stages are characterized by a new proposed approach, utilizing the 4 categorizing determinants of vaginal fluid condition, cell type(s) present, cell arrangement, and cell quantity at the time of collection. Variations of each stage, favorable and unfavorable samples, the distinction between cyclicity and acyclicity, and graphic depictions of the collected categorizing components are presented alongside effective interpretive and organizational practices of the data. Overall, these tools allow for the publication of quantifiable data ranges for the first time, leading to the standardization of categorization factors upon replication.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Estrous Cycle
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Metestrus
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Rodentia*
  • Vaginal Douching*