Understanding Natural Variation in Human Ovarian Function

  • Peter T. Ellison
Chapter
Part of the Studies in Biology, Economy and Society book series (SBES)

Abstract

At the sociocultural level human reproductive decisions are exceedingly complex. Individual motivations are influenced and constrained by partners, peers and family, by religious values and legal statutes, by individual psychology, national economic trends and geopolitical conflicts. Yet reproductive ‘decisions’ of a certain sort are also made at a physiological level. To an extent these physiological ‘decisions’ may be easier to comprehend than those at the sociocultural level in that the patterns they present may be more consistent and easier to describe, although they are not without subtleties of their own. This paper will concern itself with a subset of these physiological decisions, those that are made in the form of natural variations in female ovarian function which in turn, modulate female fecundity. It will not consider the role of lactation in modulating human ovarian function, as that will be the subject of a separate paper in this volume. Rather it will only consider ovarian function in non-pregnant, non-lactating women. Yet within this restricted context considerable variation exists that can be understood not as a pathological failure of homeostasis but as a functional adjustment of female fecundity to the likelihood of a successful reproductive outcome and the balance of competing reproductive and physiological investments.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Apter, D. and Vihko, R. (1983), ‘Early menarche, a risk factor for breast cancer, indicates early onset of ovulatory cycles’, Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, vol. 57, pp. 82–6.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Apter, D., Viinkka, L. and Vihko, R. (1978), ‘Hormonal pattern of adolescent menstrual cycles’, Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, vol. 47, pp. 944–54.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Apter, D., Raisanen, I., Ylostalo, P. and Vihko, R. (1987), ‘Follicular growth in relation to serum hormonal patterns in adolescents compared with adult menstrual cycles’, Fertility and Sterility, vol. 47, pp. 82–8.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Bailey, R. C, Jenike, M. R., Bentley, G. R., Harrigan, A. M. and Ellison, P. T. (1992), ‘The ecology of birth seasonality among agriculturists in central Africa’, Journal of Biosocial Science, vol. 24, pp. 393–412.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Barret-Conor, E. and Bush, T. L. (1991), ‘Estrogen and coronary heart disease in women’, Journal of the American Medical Association, vol. 265, pp. 1861–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bates, G. W., Bates, S. R. and Whitworth, N. S. (1982), ‘Reproductive failure in women who practice weight control’, Fertility and Sterility, vol. 37, pp. 373–8.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Baulieu, E. E. (1989), ‘Contragestion and other clinical applications of RU486, an antiprogesterone at the receptor’, Science, vol. 245, pp. 1351–7.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bentley, G. R., Harrigan, A. M. and Ellison, P. T. (1990), ‘Ovarian cycle length and days of menstruation of Lese horticulturalists’, American Journal of Physical Anthropology, vol. 81, pp. 193–4.Google Scholar
  9. Bentley, G. R. (1994), ‘Ranging hormones: do hormonal contraceptives ignore human biological variation and evolution?’, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, vol. 709, pp. 201–3.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bledsoe, R. E., O’Rourke, M. T. and Ellison, P. T. (1990), ‘Characterization of progesterone profiles of recreational runners’, American Journal of Physical Anthropology, vol. 81, pp. 195–6.Google Scholar
  11. Bongaarts, J. and Potter, R. G. (1983), Fertility, Biology, and Behavior: An Analysis of the Proximate Determinants (New York: Academic Press).Google Scholar
  12. Cummings, S. R., Kelsey, J. L., Nevitt, M. C. and O’Dowd, K. J. (1985), ‘Epidemiology of osteoporosis and osteoporotic fractures’, Epidemiologic Review, vol. 7, pp. 178–208.Google Scholar
  13. Danutra, V., Turkes, A., Read, G.F., Wilson, D. W., Griffiths, V., Jones, R. and Griffiths, K. (1989), ‘Progesterone concentrations in samples of saliva from adolescent girls living in Britain and Thailand, two countries where women are at widely differing risk of breast cancer’, Journal of Endocrinology, vol. 121, pp. 375–81.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Davis, K. and Blake, J. (1956), ‘Social structure and fertility: an analytic framework’, Economic Development and Cultural Change, vol. 4, pp. 211–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dickey, R. P., Olar, T. T., Taylor, S. N., Curole, D. N. and Matulich, E. M. (1993), ‘Relationship of endometrial thickness and pattern to fecundity in ovulation induction cycles: effect of clomiphene citrate alone and with human menopausal gonadotropin’, Fertility and Sterility, vol. 59, pp. 756–60.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Eissa, M. K., Obhrai, M. S., Docker, M. F., Lynch, S. S., Sawers, R. S. and Newton, R. R. (1986), ‘Follicular growth and endocrine profiles in spontaneous and induced conception cycles’, Fertility and Sterility, vol. 45, pp. 191–5.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Ellison, P. T. (1981), ‘Prediction of age at menarche from annual height increments’, American Journal of Physical Anthropology, vol. 56, pp. 71–5.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ellison, P. T. (1988), ‘Human salivary steroids: methodological considerations and applications in physical anthropology’, Yearbook of Physical Anthropology, vol. 31, pp. 115–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ellison, P. T. (1990), ‘Human ovarian function and reproductive ecology: new hypotheses’, American Anthropologist, vol. 92, pp. 933–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Ellison, P. T. (1993), ‘Measurements of salivary progesterone’, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, vol. 694, pp. 161–76.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ellison, P. T. (1994), ‘Salivary steroids and natural variation in human ovarian function’, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, vol. 709, pp. 287–98.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Ellison, P. T. and Lager, C. (1985), ‘Exercise-induced menstrual disorders’, New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 313, pp. 825–6.Google Scholar
  23. Ellison, P. T. and Lager, C. (1986), ‘Moderate recreational running is associated with lowered salivary progesterone profiles in women’, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, vol. 154, pp. 1000–3.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Ellison, P. T., Peacock, N. R. and Lager, C. (1986), ‘Salivary progesterone and luteal function in two low-fertility populations of northeast Zaire’, Human Biology, vol. 58, pp. 473–83.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Ellison, P. T., Peacock, N. R. and Lager, C. (1989), ‘Ecology and ovarian function among Lese women of the Ituri Forest, Zaire’, American Journal of Physical Anthropology, vol. 78, pp. 519–26.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Ellison, P. T., Lager, C. and Calfee, J. (1987), ‘Low profiles of salivary progesterone among college undergraduate women’, Journal of Adolescent Health Care, vol. 8, pp. 204–7.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Ellison, P. T., Lipson, S. F., O’Rourke, M. T., Bentley, G. R., Harrigan, A. M., Panter-Brick, C. and Vitzthum, V. J. (1993a), ‘Population variation in ovarian function’, Lancet, vol. 342, pp. 433–4.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ellison, P. T., Panter-Brick, C., Lipson, S. F. and O’Rourke, M. T. (1993b), ‘The ecological context of human ovarian function’, Human Reproduction, vol. 8, pp. 2248–58.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Fédération CECOS, Schwartz, D. and Mayaux, M. J. (1982), ‘Female fecundity as a function of age’, New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 306, pp. 404–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. FIVNAT (1993), ‘French national IVF registry: analysis of 1986 to 1990 data’, Fertility and Sterility, vol. 59, pp. 587–95.Google Scholar
  31. Frisch, R. E. (1990), ‘Body fat, menarche, fitness and fertility’, in R. E. Frisch (ed.), Adipose Tissue and Reproduction (Basel: Karger) pp. 1–26.Google Scholar
  32. Fritz, M. A., Westfahl, P. K. and Graham, R. L. (1987), ‘The effect of luteal phase estrogen antagonism on endometrial development and luteal function in women’, Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, vol. 65, pp. 1006–13.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Goldman, N., Westhoff, C. F. and Paul, L. E. (1987), ‘Variations in natural fertility: the effect of lactation and other determinants’, Population Studies, vol. 41, pp. 127–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Green, B. B., Daling, J. R., Weiss, N. S., Liff, J. M. and Koepsell, T. (1986), ‘Exercise as a risk factor for infertility with ovulatory dysfunction’, American Journal of Public Health, vol. 76, pp. 1432–6.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Green, B. B., Weiss, N. S. and Daling, J. R. (1988), ‘Risk of ovulatory infertility in relation to body weight’, Fertility and Sterility, vol. 50, pp. 721–6.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Henderson, B. E., Ross, R. K. and Bernstein, L. (1988), ‘Estrogens as a cause of human cancer: the Richard and Hilda Rosenthal Foundation Award Lecture’, Cancer Research, vol. 48, pp. 246–53.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Henry, L. (1961), ‘Some data on natural fertility’, Eugenics Quarterly, vol. 8, pp. 81–91.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Howie, P. W. and McNeilly, A. S. (1982), ‘Effect of breast feeding patterns on human birth intervals’, Journal of Reproduction and Fertility, vol. 65, pp. 545–57.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Jasienska, G. and Ellison, P. T. (1993), ‘Heavy workload impairs ovarian function in Polish peasant women’, American Journal of Physical Anthropology Supplement, vol. 16, pp. 117–8.Google Scholar
  40. Kelsey, J. L. and Gammon, M. D. (1991), ‘The epidemiology of breast cancer’, CA-Cancer Journal for Clinicians, vol. 41, pp. 146–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lager, C. and Ellison, P. T. (1990), ‘Effects of moderate weight loss on ovarian function assessed by salivary progesterone measurements’, American Journal of Human Biology, vol. 2, pp. 303–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Lenton, E. A., Gelsthorp, C. H. and Harper, R. (1988), ‘Measurement of progesterone in saliva: assessment of the normal fertile range using spontaneous conception cycles’, Clinical Endocrinology, vol. 38, pp. 637–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Levran, D., Ben-Shlomo, I., Dor, J., Ben-Rafael, Z., Nebel, L. and Mashiach, S. (1991), ‘Aging of endometrium and oocytes: observations and conception and abortion rates in an egg donation model’, Fertility and Sterility, vol. 56, pp. 1091–4.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Lipson, S. F. and Ellison, P. T. (1989), ‘Development of protocols for the application of salivary steroid analyses to field conditions’, American Journal of Human Biology, vol. 1, pp. 249–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Lipson, S. F. and Ellison, P. T. (1992), ‘Normative study of age variation in salivary progesterone profiles’, Journal of Biosocial Science, vol. 24, pp. 233–44.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Lipson, S. F. and Ellison, P. T. (1994), ‘Reference values for luteal progesterone measured by salivary radioimmunoassay’, Fertility and Sterility, vol. 61, pp. 448–54.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Liu, H. C, Jones, G. S., Jones, H. W., Jr and Rosenwaks, Z. (1988), ‘Mechanisms and factors of early pregnancy wastage in in vitro fertilization-embryo transfer patients’, Fertility and Sterility, vol. 50, pp. 95–101.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Maslar, I. A. (1988), ‘The progestational endometrium’, Seminars in Reproductive Endocrinology, vol. 6, pp. 115–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. McClure, N., McDonald, J., Kovacs, G. T., Healy, D. L., McCloud, P. I., McQuinn, B. and Burger, H. G. (1993), ‘Age and follicular phase estradiol are better predictors of pregnancy outcome than luteinizing hormone in menotropin ovulation induction for anovulatory polycystic ovarian syndrome’, Fertility and Sterility, vol. 59, pp. 729–33.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. McNeely, M. J. and Soules, M. R. (1988), ‘The diagnosis of luteal phase deficiency: a critical review’, Fertility and Sterility, vol. 50, pp. 1–15.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Menken, J., Trussell, J. and Larsen, U. (1986), ‘Age and infertility’, Science, vol. 233, pp. 1389–94.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. O’Rourke, M. T. (1992), Human Ovarian Function in Late Reproductive Life, PhD dissertation, Harvard University (Ann ArborUniversity Microfilms).Google Scholar
  53. O’Rourke, M. T. and Ellison, P. T. (1988), ‘Salivary estradiol in the human menstrual cycle’, American Journal of Physical Anthropology, vol. 75, pp. 255.Google Scholar
  54. O’Rourke, M. T. and Ellison, P. T. (1993), ‘Salivary estradiol levels decrease with age in healthy, regularly-cycling women’, Endocrine Journal, vol. 1, pp. 487–94.Google Scholar
  55. Panter-Brick, C. (1993), ‘Seasonality of energy expenditure during pregnancy and lactation for rural Nepali women’, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 57, pp. 620–8.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. Panter-Brick, C, Lotstein, D. S. and Ellison, P. T. (1993), ‘Seasonality of reproductive function and weight loss in rural Nepali women’, Human Reproduction, vol. 8, pp. 684–90.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. Pirke, K. M., Schweiger, U., Lemmel, W., Krieg, J. C. and Berger, M. (1985), ‘The influence of dieting on the menstrual cycle of healthy young women’, Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, vol. 60, pp. 1174–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Prentice, A. M. and Whitehead, R. G. (1987), ‘The energetics of human reproduction’, Symposium of the Zoological Society of London, vol. 57, pp. 275–304.Google Scholar
  59. Reeves, J. (1979), ‘Estimating fatness’, Science, vol. 204, p. 881.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Riad-Fahmy, D., Read, G. F., Walker, R. F. and Griffiths, K. (1982), ‘Steroids in saliva for assessing endocrine function’, Endocrine Reviews, vol. 3, pp. 367–95.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Schweiger, U., Laessle, R., Pfister, H., Hoehl, C., Schwingenschloegel, M., Schweiger, M. and Pirke, K. M. (1987), ‘Diet-induced menstrual irregularities: effects of age and weight loss’, Fertility and Sterility, vol. 48, pp. 746–51.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  62. Shangold, M, Freeman, R., Thyssen, B. and Gatz, M. (1979), ‘The relationship between long-distance running, plasma progesterone, and luteal phase length’, Fertility and Sterility, vol. 31, pp. 699–702.Google Scholar
  63. Shoham, Z., DiCarlo, C., Patel, A., Conway, G. S. and Jacobs, H. S. (1991), ‘Is it possible to run a successful ovulation induction program based solely on ultrasound monitoring? The importance of endometrial measurements’, Fertility and Sterility, vol. 56, pp. 836–41.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  64. Stouffer, R. L. (1988), ‘Perspectives on the corpus luteum of the menstrual cycle and early pregnancy’, Seminars in Reproductive Endocrinology, vol. 6, pp. 103–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Su, T., London, E. D. and Jaffe, J. H. (1988), ‘Steroid binding at sigma-receptors suggests a link between endocrine, nervous, and immune systems’, Science, vol. 240, pp. 219–21.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Tau-Cody, K. R., Campbell, W. F., Dodson, M. G. and Minhas, B. S. (1988), ‘Progesterone markedly enhances Chlamydia trachomatis inclusions in vitro and results in increased inflammation and productive infection in vivo’, Fertility and Sterility, vol. 50, p. S29.Google Scholar
  67. Treloar, A. E., Boynton, R. E., Behn, B. G. and Brown, B. W. (1967), ‘Variation of the human menstrual cycle through reproductive life’, International Journal of Fertility, vol. 12, pp. 77–126.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  68. Trussell, J. (1980), ‘Statistical flaws in evidence for the Frisch hypothesis that fatness triggers menarche’, Human Biology, vol. 52, pp. 711–20.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  69. Venturoli, S., Porcu, E., Fabbri, R., Magrini, O., Paradisi, R., Pallotti, G., Gammi, L. and Famigni, C. (1987), ‘Postmenarchal evolution of endocrine pattern and ovarian aspects in adolescents with menstrual irregularities’, Fertility and Sterility, vol. 48, pp. 78–85.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  70. Vihko, R. and Apter, D. (1984), ‘Endocrine characteristics of adolescent menstrual cycles: impacts of early menarche’, Journal of Steroid Biochemistry, vol. 20, pp. 231–6.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Walker, S. M., Walker, R. F. and Riad-Fahmy, D. (1984), ‘Longitudinal studies of luteal function by salivary progesterone determinations’, Hormone Research, vol. 20, pp. 231–40.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Weinstein, M., Wood, J., Stoto, M. A. and Greenfield, D. D. (1990), ‘Components of age-specific fecundability’, Population Studies, vol. 44, pp. 447–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Wood, J. W., Holman, D. J., Weiss, K. M., Buchanan, A. V. and LeFor, B. (1992), ‘Hazards models for human population biology’, Yearbook of Physical Anthropology, vol. 35, pp. 43–88.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Yoshimura, Y. and Wallach, E. E. (1987), ‘Studies of the mechanism(s) of mammalian ovulation’, Fertility and Sterility, vol. 47, pp. 22–34.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Galton Institute 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter T. Ellison

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations