This study was designed to determine whether autonomic regulation induced by posture changes varies during the menstrual cycle. Heart rate variability (HRV) was analyzed in women with normal menstrual cycles (n = 10, age range 20-37 years) during 3 min periods of controlled frequency breathing (15 breaths/min) in supine followed by sitting positions. In a supine or sitting position, high frequency (HF) components of HRV, which reflects only parasympathetic activity, were significantly high in the follicular phase compared with those in the menstrual phase, suggesting that parasympathetic nerve activity increases in this phase. Following the change of position to sitting from supine, the HF component decreased significantly in the menstrual, ovulatory and luteal phases, but not the follicular or premenstrual phase. After changing the position to sitting, the low to high frequency component ratio, which reflects the balance of autonomic nerve activities, was increased significantly in the menstrual, luteal and premenstrual phases, indicating that sympathetic nerve activities in these phases became predominant by the sitting position. These results suggest that parasympathetic nerve activity is predominant in the follicular phase, resulting in an impairment of baroreflex caused by posture changes. Moreover, baroreflex control of the sympathetic component, not the parasympathetic component, increases in the premenstrual phase, while the reflex response of the sympathetic component is less in the ovulatory phase compared with the menstrual or luteal phase. We concluded that baroreflex regulation of autonomic functions induced by changing positions is modified during the menstrual cycle. A difference of a balance of ovarian hormones may be responsible for these changes of autonomic functions during the menstrual cycle.

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