Reproductive Hormones

Definition - What does Reproductive Hormones mean?

Reproductive hormones are the chemicals produced and released by the body to regulate reproduction. The interaction of these hormones controls the reproductive cycle. As a result, any imbalance in this process can lead to infertility.

FertilitySmarts explains Reproductive Hormones

In both men and women, reproduction is regulated by hormones released by parts of the brain called the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. In both sexes, the hypothalamus releases gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). This hormone acts on the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland produces two different hormones, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and lutenizing hormone (LH).

In women, FSH stimulates ovarian follicles to mature and controls egg production (oogenesis). LH stimulates the ovaries to produce the hormones estrogen and progesterone, triggers ovulation, and promotes the development of the corpus luteum. Estrogen promotes the maturation and release of eggs in each menstrual cycle. It is also responsible for the development of secondary sex characteristics in females, such as breast development, hip-widening, body fat distribution, and pubic hair. Progesterone prepares the uterine lining for implantation of a fertilized egg and suppresses estrogen after ovulation has occurred.

In men, FSH controls sperm production (spermatogenesis). LH stimulates the testes to produce the hormone testosterone. Testosterone plays an important role in maintaining sperm production. Testosterone is also important for the development of secondary sex characteristics in males, such as muscle mass, facial and pubic hair, Adam's apple, and a deeper voice.

Imbalances in the interaction between these hormones can lead to fertility issues. For example, ovarian insufficiency in women can lead to a decrease in estrogen and progesterone levels and premature menopause. In men, low testosterone levels can cause a low sex drive and reduced sperm count.

An endocrinologist or gynecologist may prescribe hormone therapy to individuals suffering from reduced levels of reproductive hormones.

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