Article| Volume 18, ISSUE 4, P328-335, July 2008

Susceptibility to Nausea and Motion Sickness as a Function of the Menstrual Cycle


      The present study examined whether susceptibility to nausea and other symptoms of vection-induced motion sickness vary as a function of phase of the menstrual cycle, as research findings in this area are sparse and contradictory.


      Ninety young women (42 current users of oral contraceptives) were exposed to a rotating optokinetic drum during the peri-menses or peri-ovulatory phase of the menstrual cycle in an independent-groups, quasi-experimental design. Nausea and motion sickness symptoms were assessed using the Nausea Profile (NP) and the Subjective Symptoms of Motion Sickness (SSMS) questionnaire.


      Among women not on oral contraceptives, reports of nausea and motion sickness by women in the peri-menses phase were more severe than reports by women in the peri-ovulatory phase. By contrast, among women taking oral contraceptives, reports of nausea and motion sickness did not differ by the same categorical phase of the menstrual cycle.


      We speculate that fluctuating estrogen levels over the course of the menstrual cycle may influence the experience of or susceptibility to nausea and motion sickness during illusory self-motion and other nauseogenic contexts.
      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Women's Health Issues
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Anderson F.D.
        • Gibbons W.
        • Portman D.
        Long-term safety of an extended-cycle oral contraceptive (Seasonale): A 2-year multicenter open-label extension trial.
        American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2006; 195: 92-96
        • Beattie W.S.
        • Lindblad T.
        • Buckley D.N.
        • Forrest J.B.
        The incidence of post-operative nausea and vomiting in women undergoing laparoscopy is influenced by the day of the menstrual cycle.
        Canadian Journal of Anaesthesiology. 1991; 28: 298-302
        • Beattie W.S.
        • Lindblad T.
        • Buckley D.N.
        • Forrest J.B.
        Menstruation increases the risk of nausea and vomiting after laparoscopy: A prospective randomized study.
        Anesthesiology. 1993; 78: 272-276
        • Bellville J.W.
        Postanesthetic nausea and vomiting.
        Anesthesiology. 1961; 22: 773-780
        • Bruce L.A.
        • Beshudi F.M.
        Increased gastrointestinal motility in vitro following chronic estrogen treatment in male rats.
        Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine. 1981; 166: 355-359
        • Caillet G.
        • Bosser G.
        • Gauchard G.C.
        • Chau N.
        • Benamghar L.
        • Perrin P.P.
        Effect of sporting activity practice on susceptibility to motion sickness.
        Brain Research Bulletin. 2006; 69: 288-293
        • Clemes S.A.
        • Howarth P.A.
        Changes in virtual simulator sickness susceptibility throughout the menstrual cycle.
        in: 2001: 12-14 (Paper presented at the 36th United Kingdom Group Meeting on Human Responses to Vibration, Centre for Human Sciences, QinetiQ, Farnborough, UK, September)
        • Clemes S.A.
        • Howarth P.A.
        The menstrual cycle and susceptibility to virtual simulation sickness.
        Journal of Biological Rhythms. 2005; 20: 71-82
        • Collins W.E.
        • Lentz J.M.
        Some psychological correlates of motion sickness susceptibility.
        Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine. 1977; 48: 587-594
        • Cheung B.
        • Heskin R.
        • Hofer K.
        • Gagnon M.
        The menstrual cycle and susceptibility to coriolis-induced sickness.
        Journal of Vestibular Research. 2001; 11: 129-136
        • Cheung B.
        • Heskin R.
        • Hofer K.
        • Gagnon M.
        The menstrual cycle and susceptibility to coriolis-induced sickness.
        Journal of Vestibular Research. 2005; 11: 129-136
        • Dobie T.
        • McBride D.
        • Dobie Jr., T.
        • May J.
        The effects of age and sex on susceptibility to motion sickness.
        Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine. 2001; 72: 13-20
        • Eisner A.
        • Burke S.N.
        • Toomey M.D.
        Visual sensitivity across the menstrual cycle.
        Visual Neuroscience. 2004; 21: 513-531
        • Fisher R.S.
        • Roberts G.S.
        • Grabowski C.J.
        • Cohen S.
        Altered lower esophageal sphincter function during early pregnancy.
        Gastroenterology. 1978; 74: 1233-1237
        • Flanagan M.B.
        • May J.G.
        • Dobie T.G.
        Sex differences in tolerance to visually-induced motion sickness.
        Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine. 2005; 76: 642-646
        • Forrest J.B.
        • Beattie W.W.
        • Goldsmith C.H.
        Risk factors for nausea and vomiting after general anaesthesia.
        Canadian Journal of Anaesthesiology. 1990; 37: S90
        • Gianni L.
        • Colleoni M.
        • Golding J.F.
        • Goldhirsch A.
        Can tomoxifen relieve motion sickness?.
        Annals of Oncology. 2005; 16: 1713-1714
        • Girdler S.S.
        • Light K.C.
        Hemodynamic stress responses in men and women examined as a function of the female menstrual cycle.
        International Journal of Psychophysiology. 1994; 17: 233-248
        • Giuffre G.
        • Di Rosa L.
        • Fiorino F.
        Changes in colour discrimination during the menstrual cycle.
        Ophthalmologica. 2007; 221: 47-50
        • Golding J.F.
        • Kadzere P.
        • Gresty M.A.
        Motion sickness susceptibility fluctuates through the menstrual cycle.
        AviationSpaceand Environmental Medicine. 2005; 76: 970-973
        • Graybiel A.
        • Wood C.D.
        • Miller E.F.
        • Cramer D.B.
        Diagnostic criteria for grading the severity of acute motion sickness.
        Aerospace Medicine. 1968; 39: 453-455
        • Grunfeld E.
        • Gresty M.A.
        Relationship between motion sickness, migraine, and menstruation in crew members of a “round-the-world” yacht race.
        Brain Research Bulletin. 1998; 47: 433-436
        • Grunfeld E.A.
        • Price C.
        • Goadsby P.J.
        • Gresty M.A.
        Motion sickness, migraine, and menstruation in mariners.
        Lancet. 1998; 351: 1106
        • Hastrup J.L.
        • Light K.C.
        Sex differences in cardiovascular stress responses: Modulation as a function of menstrual cycle phases.
        Journal of Psychosomatic Research. 1984; 28: 475-483
        • Heitkemper M.M.
        • Jarett M.
        Pattern of gastrointestinal and somatic symptoms across the menstrual cycle.
        Gastroenterology. 1992; 102: 505-513
        • Honkavaara P.
        • Lehtinen A.M.
        • Hovorka J.
        Nausea and vomiting after gynaecological laparoscopy depends upon the phase of the menstrual cycle.
        Canadian Journal of Anaesthesiology. 1991; 38: 876-879
        • Honkavaara P.
        • Pyykko I.
        • Rutanen E.M.
        Increased incidence of retching and vomiting during peri-ovulatory phase after middle ear surgery.
        Canadian Journal of Anaesthesiology. 1996; 43: 1108-1114
        • Hruska R.E.
        • Silbergeld E.K.
        Increased dopamine receptor sensitivity after estrogen treatment using the rat rotation model.
        Science. 1980; 208: 1466-1468
        • Hu S.
        • Grant W.F.
        • Stern R.M.
        • Koch K.L.
        Motion sickness severity and physiological correlates during repeated exposures to a rotating optokinetic drum.
        AviationSpaceand Environmental Medicine. 1991; 62: 308-314
        • Janhunen L.
        • Tammisto T.
        Postoperative vomiting after different modes of general anaesthesia.
        Annales Chirurgiae et Gynaecologiae Fenniae. 1972; 61: 152-159
        • Javid F.A.
        • Naylor R.J.
        Variables of movement amplitude and frequency in the development of motion sickness in Suncus murinus.
        Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior. 1999; 64: 115-122
        • Jokerst M.D.
        • Gatto M.
        • Fazio R.
        • Gianaros P.J.
        • Stern R.M.
        • Koch K.L.
        Effects of gender on susceptibility to motion sickness.
        AviationSpaceand Environmental Medicine. 1999; 70: 962-965
        • Lawther A.
        • Griffin M.J.
        The motion of a ship at sea and the consequent motion sickness amongst passengers.
        Ergonomics. 1986; 29: 535-552
        • Lee V.
        • Dowse M.S.L.
        • Edge C.
        • Gunby A.
        • Bryson P.
        Decompression sickness in women: A possible relationship with the menstrual cycle.
        AviationSpaceand Environmental Medicine. 2003; 74: 1177-1182
        • Lindseth G.
        • Lindseth P.D.
        The relationship of diet to airsickness.
        AviationSpaceand Environmental Medicine. 1995; 66: 537-541
        • Lipson S.F.
        • Ellison P.T.
        Normative study of age variation in salivary progesterone profiles.
        Journal of Biosocial Science. 1992; 24: 233-244
        • Litschauer B.
        • Zauchner S.
        • Huemer K.H.
        • Kafka-Lutzow A.
        Cardiovascular, endocrine, and receptor measures as related to sex and the menstrual cycle phase.
        Psychosomatic Medicine. 1998; 60: 219-226
        • Mayer E.A.
        • Naliboff B.
        • Lee O.
        • Munakata J.
        • Chang L.
        Review article: Gender-related differences in functional gastrointestinal disorders.
        Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 1999; 13: 65-69
        • Mills P.J.
        • Berry C.C.
        Menstrual cycle, race, and task recovery effects on blood pressure recovery from acute stress.
        Journal of Psychosomatic Research. 1999; 46: 445-454
        • Muth E.R.
        • Stern R.M.
        • Thayer J.F.
        • Koch K.L.
        Assessment of the multiple dimensions of nausea: The nausea profile (NP).
        Journal of Psychosomatic Research. 1996; 40: 511-520
        • Navarrete-Palacios E.
        • Hudson R.
        • Reyes-Guerrero G.
        • Guevara-Guzman R.
        Lower olfactory thresholds during the ovulatory phase of the menstrual cycle.
        Biological Psychology. 2003; 63: 269-279
        • Ordy J.M.
        • Brizzee K.R.
        Motion sickness in the squirrel monkey.
        AviationSpaceand Environmental Medicine. 1980; 51: 215-223
        • Palazzo M.G.A.
        • Strunin L.
        Anaesthesia and emesis II: Prevention and management.
        Canadian Anaesthetic Society Journal. 1984; 31: 407-415
        • Ramsay T.M.
        • McDonald P.F.
        • Faragher E.B.
        The menstrual cycle and nausea or vomiting after wisdom teeth extraction.
        Canadian Journal of Anaesthesiology. 1994; 41: 798-801
        • Riezzo G.
        • Pezzolla F.
        • Darconza G.
        • Giorgio I.
        Gastric myoelectrical activity in the first trimester of pregnancy: A cutaneous electrogastrographic study.
        American Journal of Gastroenterology. 1992; 87: 702-707
        • Rita L.
        • Goodarzi M.
        • Seleny F.
        Effect of low dose droperidol on postoperative vomiting in children.
        Canadian Anaesthetics Society Journal. 1981; 28: 259-262
        • Rubin A.
        • Metz-Rubin H.
        The effect of Dramamine upon postoperative nausea and vomiting: A controlled study of 250 consecutive surgical patients.
        Surgical Gynecological Obstetrics. 1951; 92: 415-418
        • Schwab R.S.
        The nonlabyrinthine causes of motion sickness.
        International Record of Medicine. 1954; 167: 631-637
        • Swanson S.J.
        • Dengerink H.A.
        Changes in pure-tone thresholds and temporary threshold shifts as a function of menstrual cycle and oral contraceptives.
        Journal of Speech and Hearing Research. 1988; 31: 569-574
        • Tornetta F.J.
        A comparison of droperidol, diazepam, and hydroxyzine hydrochloride as premedication.
        Anesthesia and Analgesia. 1977; 56 (496–450)
        • Turner M.
        • Griffin M.J.
        Motion sickness in public road transport: Passenger behaviour and susceptibility.
        Ergonomics. 1999; 42: 444-461
        • Vuorento T.
        • Lahti A.
        • Hovatta O.
        • Huhtaniemi I.
        Daily measurements of salivary progesterone reveal a high rate of anovulation in healthy students.
        Scandinavian Journal of Clinical and Laboratory Investigation. 1989; 49: 395-401
        • Wald A.
        • Van Thiel D.H.
        • Hoechstetter L.
        • Gavaler J.S.
        • Egler K.M.
        • Verm R.
        • Scott L.
        • Lester R.
        Effect of pregnancy on gastrointestinal transit.
        Digestive Diseases and Sciences. 1982; 27: 1015-1018
        • Yang X.
        • Liu R.
        • Dong Y.
        Regulative effects of ovarian steroids on rat gastric motility and sensitivity.
        Acta Physiolgica Sinica. 2006; 58: 275-280
        • Zhao L.
        • Stern R.M.
        Absence of habituation to repeated exposures to a rotating optokinetic drum with brief intersession intervals.
        Perceptual and Motor Skills. 1999; 89: 778-782


      Robert L. Matchock, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at The Pennsylvania State University, Altoona. His research is focused on circadian and seasonal rhythms of physiology and behavior, with an emphasis on reproduction and menarche.


      Max Levine, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Siena College. His work is focused on the psychophysiology of nausea and appetite, and explores interactions between behavior, psychosocial factors, and functioning of the gastrointestinal system.


      Peter Gianaros, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. His work uses human imaging neuroscience methods to study the central regulation of autonomic and cardiovascular function in health and disease.


      Robert Stern, PhD, is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychology at The Pennsylvania State University. He studies the relationship of gastric and autonomic activity to nausea.