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J Clin Pharmacol. 1994 May;34(5):434-9.

Blood volume responses of men and women to bed rest.

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  • 1NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX 77058.


This paper reviews a series of studies that indicate that estrogens play an important role in blood volume regulation. The first study illustrates that the plasma volume (PV) of ambulatory women fluctuates during the menstrual cycle, increasing during periods of elevated estrogens. In the second study, it was shown that exogenous and endogenous elevations in blood estrogens attenuate the decrease in PV during bed rest. In the third study, the hypothesis was tested that women, who naturally have a higher blood estrogen content compared with men, will have a smaller loss of PV during bed rest. Ten men and ten women underwent a 13-day, 6 degrees head-down bed rest. Plasma volume and red cell mass (RCM) were measured before and after bed rest using 125I and 51Cr labeling, respectively. Before bed rest, the men and women had similar blood volume (BV) and PV (mL/kg body weight), but the women had a smaller (P < .01) RCM (22.2 +/- 0.9 versus 26.2 +/- 0.8 mL/kg, mean +/- SE). During bed rest, the decrease in RCM (mL/kg) was similar in men and women. However, the decrease in BV was greater in men (8.0 +/- 0.8 mL/kg versus 5.8 +/- 0.8 mL/kg), because of a greater reduction in PV (6.3 +/- 0.6 mL/kg versus 4.1 +/- 0.6 mL/kg). Because the decline in BV has been proposed to contribute to the cardiovascular deconditioning after bed rest, it is possible that women may experience less cardiac and circulatory strain on reambulation.

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