We have compared measures of heart rate variability (HRV) in 15 women in late pregnancy before and 3 months after delivery and in 20 non-pregnant controls, to study the effect of aortocaval compression on autonomic nervous activity. Normalized high-frequency power was used as an index of vagal activity and the low-/high-frequency power ratio as index of sympathovagal balance. We found that the decrease in vagal activity and increase in sympathovagal balance before delivery returned to normal 3 months after delivery. Percentage changes in vagal activity and sympathovagal balance 3 months after delivery in the left lateral decubitus position were least among three recumbent positions. The relief of aortocaval compression as a result of delivery of the fetus may be the main cause of return of autonomic nervous activity 3 months after delivery. Postpartum hormonal changes may also contribute to return of autonomic nervous activity after delivery.
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