In order to evaluate the possible effects of pregnancy-associated sex steroids on gastrointestinal function, we determined gastrointestinal transit times and sex steroid levels in 15 women during the third trimester of their pregnancies and again 4–6 weeks following delivery when gastrointestinal function had symptomatically returned to normal. Gastrointestinal transit time from ingestion of a liquid lactulose meal to its delivery to the cecum was determined by monitoring breath hydrogen concentrations at 10-min intervals. Gastrointestinal transit times were significantly prolonged in the third trimester of pregnancy, when progesterone and estradiol levels were increased, compared to the postpartum period. This study supports previous findings which suggest that increasing levels of progesterone and estradiol affect gastrointestinal function and therefore may contribute to gastrointestinal symptoms that often occur in pregnant women.
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Wald, A., Van Thiel, D.H., Hoechstetter, L. et al. Effect of pregnancy on gastrointestinal transit. Digest Dis Sci 27, 1015–1018 (1982). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01391748