Background: The purpose of the present study was to determine how acute adult and/or prior early-in life (EIL; P14-P16) exposure to bladder inflammation affects bladder content of calcitonin gene related peptide (CGRP) and substance P (SP). Estrous cycle influences were also studied in the adult-treatment conditions. Methods. In Experiment 1, intravesical zymosan or isoflurane anesthesia alone was administered to adult female rats. Bladders and serum were collected 24 hours later during each phase of the estrous cycle. In Experiment 2, zymosan or anesthesia alone was administered EIL and as adults, with bladder tissue collection 24 h later. Results: In general, Experiment 1 showed that bladder content of both CGRP and SP was increased by inflammation. This effect was significant when data were collapsed across all phases of the estrous cycle, but was only significant during proestrus when individual comparisons were made during each phase of estrous. Also, adult bladder inflammation significantly reduced estradiol levels. In Experiment 2, bladder content of CGRP and SP was significantly increased in rats receiving EIL and/or adult inflammation. Bladder weights were also significantly increased by inflammation. Conclusions: These data indicate that bladder CGRP and SP are maximally increased during the proestrus phase of the estrous cycle in inflamed adult female rats. EIL exposure to bladder inflammation alone can also produce an increase in CGRP and SP lasting into adulthood. Therefore, EIL experience with bladder inflammation may predispose an organism to experience a painful bladder disorder as an adult by increasing primary afferent content of CGRP and/or SP. © 2011 Shaffer et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.