Oral contraceptives, exercise, and acute mountain sickness in women

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Department or Administrative Unit

Nutrition Exercise and Health Sciences

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Background: Previous research has found that exercise exacerbated acute mountain sickness (AMS) in men.

Purpose: The current study tested this relationship in women taking oral contraceptives.

Methods: We studied seven women at 428 mmHg for 10 h; once while at rest (R) and once while performing intermittent exercise (EX).

Results: AMS scores had a slight increase at 9 vs. 0 h at altitude in both trials (p < 0.05). Resting measurements of ventilation (VE), arterial oxygen saturation (SPO2), end tidal O2 (PETO2), and end tidal CO2 (PETCO2) were not different over time or between trials (p > 0.05). While fluid intake did not change, urine output increased during the 0-3 h period, regardless of trial, and returned to baseline values by the 6-9 h period (218 +/- 37 vs. 121 +/- 22 ml x h(-1); p < 0.05). During exercise, SPO2 significantly dropped compared with similar time points in R (73.1 +/- 1.1 vs. 85.7 +/- 1.8%; p < 0.05). Despite exercise-induced desaturation, the AMS scores were not significantly different between R and EX.

Conclusion: These results suggest that oral contraceptives may cause a compensation for the physiological responses to exercise critical for the development of AMS.


This article was originally published in Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine. The article from the publisher can be found here.

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Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine


© 2001 by Aerospace Medical Association