09.06.2023 | Letter to the Editor
Heart rate variability between hormone phases of the menstrual and oral contraceptive pill cycles of young women
Clinical Autonomic Research
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The interplay between the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system contribute to adequate hemodynamic responses to stressors, reflected by the variation in intervals between heart beats, known as heart rate variability. The sex hormones estrogen and progesterone have been shown to affect autonomic function. The extent to which autonomic function may vary between different hormone phases of the natural menstrual cycle and how this relationship may differ in women taking oral contraceptives has yet to be fully elucidated.
To investigate differences in heart rate variability between the early follicular and early luteal phases of the menstrual cycle in naturally menstruating women and in oral contraceptive pill users.
Twenty-two young (22 ± 3 years), healthy women who were naturally menstruating or taking oral contraceptive pills participated in this study. Heart rate variability was measured at rest and during two sympathomimetic stressors: isometric handgrip exercise and cold pressor test.
The proportion of successive NN intervals that differ by more than 50 ms was higher in oral contraceptive pill users during the placebo pill phase. Absolute high-frequency power was higher in the naturally menstruating women during the early luteal phase, relative to the early follicular phase. Other indices of vagal modulation were not different at rest or during sympathetic activation between hormone phases or groups.
Vagal modulation may be increased in the early luteal menstrual cycle phase. Further,oral contraceptive use does not appear to adversely affect this modulation in young, healthy women.