Because severe constipation is a disorder largely confined to young women, the possibility that menstrually related factors contribute to disturbed gastrointestinal motor function has been raised. It has also been reported that normal menstruating women show changes in upper gut transit between the follicular and luteal phases of the menstrual cycle and that patients with constipation show prolonged transit. We therefore studied relationships between symptom severity and orocaecal transit during the menstrual cycle in a group of 14 constipated women and a series of control groups comprising seven normal menstruating women, five postmenopausal women, and eight normal men, to determine whether phases of the menstrual cycle were associated with alteration in symptoms or transit. A regular menstrual cycle was reported by 13 of the 14 patients (range 26-30 days) and by all the menstruating female volunteers. Seven patients noted variation in constipation during the menstrual cycle, in all cases this comprised an improvement in symptoms just before or during menstruation. No consistent relationship between symptom severity and follicular or luteal phase was noted. Repeated orocaecal transit measurements in the four study groups showed no consistent differences (greater than 0.05) between groups or during the menstrual cycle (mean change weeks 1-4, -10 +/- 20 min). These findings are inconsistent with the hypothesis of a progesterone related effect upon orocaecal transit in either normal or constipated women.
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