1. The objective of this study was to investigate whether the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle differs from the follicular phase by the development of a state of general vascular relaxation.
2. Once in the follicular and once in the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, we measured by non-invasive techniques: arterial blood pressure (by finger blood pressure measurements), vascular tone (by pulse-wave velocity and plethysmography), blood flow to skin (by laser-Doppler), blood flow to forearm (by plethysmography) and blood flow to kidneys (by para-aminohippurate clearance), and the glomerular filtration rate (by inulin clearance). The data points obtained in the luteal phase were compared with those in the follicular phase by non-parametric tests.
3. Arterial blood pressure, vascular tone and the blood flows to the forearm and kidneys were comparable in the two phases of the menstrual cycle. In contrast, the blood flow to the skin was consistently lower, and the glomerular filtration rate higher in the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle.
4. The results of the present study do not support our hypothesis of a general vascular relaxation in the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. The lower skin flow in the luteal phase may be an adaptation needed to ensure the higher core temperature of 0.3–0.5°C in the luteal phase. The higher glomerular filtration rate was in most cases paralleled by a higher renal blood flow in the luteal phase. This suggests that the higher glomerular filtration rate is secondary to a selective vasorelaxation of the afferent renal arterioles.