Rapid gastric emptying during pregnancy in a rat model

Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2023 Oct:289:74-78. doi: 10.1016/j.ejogrb.2023.08.370. Epub 2023 Aug 21.


Background/aims: The effect of pregnancy on gastric emptying has not been established, although the predominant clinical assumption is that gastric emptying is delayed during pregnancy. We hypothesized that the rate of emptying of nutrients during pregnancy is not delayed, but is actually more rapid when compared to the non-pregnant state. The rate of gastric emptying is a major determinant of postprandial glucose elevations.

Materials and methods: 24 female and 4 male Spague-Dawley rats were used. Female rats were randomly divided into two groups: eight rats for the control group and sixteen rats for the pregnant group. Using physiologic, non-traumatic nuclear medicine scintigraphy imaging methodology, the authors studied gastric emptying of a liquid mixed meal in pregnant rats and non-pregnant controls. Body weights, daily food ingestion, and the rate of nutrient gastric emptying were recorded in both groups at pre-pregnancy, early pregnancy, and late pregnancy.

Results: The authors found that pregnancy in this rat model is associated with a 37-43% increased rate of nutrient gastric emptying from the stomach in late pregnancy as compared to non-pregnant control rats and pre-pregnancy rats.

Conclusion: These findings contradict the current clinical assumption that gastric emptying is delayed in pregnancy. If further studies confirm a more rapid gastric emptying rate during human pregnancy, new therapies aimed at slowing the rate of nutrient absorption should be considered for the prevention and treatment of pregnancy-associated nausea, gestational diabetes, and other insulin-resistant pregnancy-associated states such as pre-eclampsia.

Keywords: Gastric emptying; Gestational diabetes; Postprandial glucose; Preeclampsia; Pregnancy; Scintigraphic imaging.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Weight
  • Cystography
  • Diabetes, Gestational*
  • Female
  • Gastric Emptying
  • Glucose
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Morning Sickness*
  • Pregnancy
  • Rats


  • Glucose