1. The haemodynamic effects of hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle were examined in 11 normotensive women (age 20–46 years). The subjects were studied on days 2–8 (follicular phase) and days 18–26 (luteal phase) in a randomized order. A standardized mental stress test and a 24 h recording of ambulatory blood pressure and heart rate were performed.
2. Pre-stress resting levels of heart rate and blood pressure were similar during the two phases of the menstrual cycle.
3. During mental stress, the heart rate response was significantly greater during the luteal phase than during the follicular phase (14.7 versus 9.7 beats/min; P < 0.05).
4. Blood pressure, plasma catecholamine concentrations and subjective stress experience increased significantly in response to stress, without any significant differences between the two phases.
5. During 24 h ambulatory monitoring, higher levels of systolic blood pressure and heart rate were observed in the luteal phase than in the follicular phase (P < 0.005 and P < 0.0001, respectively).
6. These data indicate that cyclic variations in female sex hormones not only affect systolic blood pressure and heart rate, but also alter the haemodynamic responses to psychosocial stress.