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Characteristics of

human female ovulatory


~25-30 days in length

includes menses
ovulation occurs spontaneously
cycles occur throughout the year
no evidence of a period of estrus
influenced by social factors (dormitory effect)
one egg produced / month
cycle length decreases with age

Phases of human
ovarian cycle:
Menstrual phase (destructive phase)
Follicular phase (estrogenic phase)
Luteal phase (progestational)

Menstrual Phase
Day 1 = beginning of menses
4-5 days in length
uterine lining degenerates
follicle development continues

Follicular Phase
Estrogen production gradually increases
By day 13, 1 Graafian follicle present
Remaining follicles become atretic by
day 13
Ovulation occurs on last day of follicular
phase (~day 14)
Uterine events: endometrium thickens;

blood supply increases

E peak signals brain and pituitary that follicle
is ready to ovulate
GnRH release increases
LH surge occurs (24-48 hrs later)
LH surge initiates meiosis in oocyte
ovulation occurs 9-12 hrs after LH surge
FSH surge also occurs (probably to recruit
follicles for next cycles)

Luteal Phase
last half of menstrual cycle
follicle transformed to corpus luteum (CL)
secretes progesterone (and estrogen)
GnRH secretion inhibited
no pregnancy > CL degenerates (~4 days prior
to menstruation)
uterine events:
thick and spongy
glands secrete nutrients for possible embryo

Predicting ovulation
Home methods:
calendar method
ovulatory pain
body temperature
cervical mucus
commercially available kits (urine LH measurements)
Laboratory methods:
blood measurements of LH, progesterone
microscopic examination of cervical mucus
vaginal smears

menstrual cramps
contraction of uterine smooth muscle
likely caused by prostaglandins in
menstrual fluid
treatments: antiprostaglandins
Smokers are 2x more likely to
experience negative effects of

absence of menstruation
primary amenorrhea
menarche hasnt occurred by age 16
associated with low amount of fat
adult woman skips one or a few cycles
common during periods of emotional distress or early stages
of menopause
secondary amenorrhea:
no menstruation for 6 months or more
causes: pregnancy, lactation, menopause, low body fat,
intense exercise, tumors

average age of menopause in U.S.: 52 years
GnRH release changes
ovaries dont respond to LH, FSH
depletion of germ cell stock
estrogen falls
symptoms: hot flashes, psychological and
emotional changes (?)
treatment: hormone replacement therapy