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    Stress and the female reproductive system

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    Now that you have reviewed the anatomy and physiology of reproduction, let's continue to investigate the influence of the stress response on human reproductive function. We will begin by investigating the interactions between hormones responsible for regulating female reproductive cycles and the stress hormones.

    First read some background on stress and reproduction in the article, "Stress puts double whammy on reproductive system," By Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley News. 15 June 2009.

    Next, read the review by Kalantaridou, N.S., et al. Stress and the female reproductive system. Journal of Reproductive Immunology. 2004.62:61-68, and address the following questions in paragraph format:
    1. What term is used in this article to describe the regulatory axis of the reproductive system? What is the principle regulatory hormone for this axis?
    2. What effects does the HPA axis have on the female reproductive system? What two hormones are described in this article and what are the general effects of these hormones on female reproductive organs?
    3. Which female reproductive organs normally respond to CRH? What effect does this hormone have on these organs? What is the role of this hormonal signal in regulating reproduction? Use Table 2 and do a little outside research to look up any unfamiliar terms.
    4. Recall the information that you have reviewed in previous modules about unregulated cortisol and stress hormone release on the other systems of the body. What are the implications of dysregulation of CRH and glucocorticoids for human reproduction? Describe the physiological and psychological effects that these hormones can have relative to female reproduction.

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    Solution Preview

    The hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis (HPO) is the regulatory axis of the reproductive system. The principal regulatory hormone for the HPO axis is gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH); this hormone is produced by neurons of the preoptic and arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus. The hormone is released into the hypophyseal portal system, and stimulates the pituitary follicles, which encourages hormone secretion. This in turn encourages the secretion of estradiol and progesterone by the ovaries.

    The hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) is part of the stress response system, and has the effect of changing the organism's behavior in order to increase the organism's chances to survive the stressful situation. When stress is present, the HPA axis has the effect of preventing the female ...

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