The ovarian and menstrual cycles are regulated by hormones of the hypothalamus, pituitary, and ovaries (Figure 18.17). The ebb and flow of the hormones causes the ovarian and menstrual cycles to advance. The ovarian and menstrual cycles occur concurrently. The first half of the ovarian cycle is the follicular phase. Slowly rising levels of FSH cause the growth of follicles on the surface of the ovary. This process prepares the egg for ovulation. As the follicles grow, they begin releasing estrogen. The first few days of this cycle coincide with menstruation or the sloughing off of the functional layer of the endometrium in the uterus. After about five days, estrogen levels rise and the menstrual cycle enters the proliferative phase. The endometrium begins to regrow, replacing the blood vessels and glands that deteriorated during the end of the last cycle.
Which of the following statements about hormone regulation of the female reproductive cycle is false?
- LH and FSH are produced in the pituitary, and estrogen and progesterone are produced in the ovaries.
- Estradiol and progesterone secreted from the corpus luteum cause the endometrium to thicken.
- Both progesterone and estrogen are produced by the follicles.
- Secretion of GnRH by the hypothalamus is inhibited by low levels of estrogen but stimulated by high levels of estrogen.
Just prior to the middle of the cycle (approximately day 14), the high level of estrogen causes FSH and especially LH to rise rapidly then fall. The spike in LH causes the most mature follicle to rupture and release its egg. This is ovulation. The follicles that did not rupture degenerate and their eggs are lost. The level of estrogen decreases when the extra follicles degenerate.
Following ovulation, the ovarian cycle enters its luteal phase and the menstrual cycle enters its secretory phase, both of which run from about day 15 to 28. The luteal and secretory phases refer to changes in the ruptured follicle. The cells in the follicle undergo physical changes and produce a structure called a corpus luteum. The corpus luteum produces estrogen and progesterone. The progesterone facilitates the regrowth of the uterine lining and inhibits the release of further FSH and LH. The uterus is being prepared to accept a fertilized egg, should it occur during this cycle. The inhibition of FSH and LH prevents any further eggs and follicles from developing, while the progesterone is elevated. The level of estrogen produced by the corpus luteum increases to a steady level for the next few days.
If no fertilized egg is implanted into the uterus, the corpus luteum degenerates and the levels of estrogen and progesterone decrease. The endometrium begins to degenerate as the progesterone levels drop, initiating the next menstrual cycle. The decrease in progesterone also allows the hyp
Careers IN ACTION
A reproductive endocrinologist is a physician who treats a variety of hormonal disorders related to reproduction and infertility in both men and women. The disorders include menstrual problems, infertility, pregnancy loss, sexual dysfunction, and menopause. Doctors may use fertility drugs, surgery, or assisted reproductive techniques (ART) in their therapy. ART involves the use of procedures to manipulate the egg or sperm to facilitate reproduction, such as in vitro fertilization.
Reproductive endocrinologists undergo extensive medical training, first in a four-year residency in obstetrics and gynecology, then in a three-year fellowship in reproductive endocrinology. To be board certified in this area, the physician must pass written and oral exams in both areas.