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A Journal on Obstetrics and Gynecology

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Minerva Ginecologica 2005 February;57(1):45-54


language: English

The diagnosis and treatment of stress-induced anovulation

Berga S. L., Loucks T. L.


Behaviors that activate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis or suppress the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroidal (HPT) axis can disrupt the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis in women and men. Individuals with functional hypothalamic hypogonadism typically engage in a combination of behaviors that serve as psychogenic stressors and present metabolic challenges. Complete recovery of gonadal function depends upon restoration of the HPA and HPT axes. Hormone replacement strategies have limited benefit because they do not promote recovery from these allostatic endocrine adjustments in the HPA and HPT axes. Indeed, the rationale for the use of sex steroid replacement is based on the erroneous assumption that functional forms of hypothalamic hypogonadism represent only an alteration in the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian (HPO) axis. Further, use of sex hormones masks deficits that accrue from altered HPA and HPT function. Long-term deleterious consequences of stress-induced anovulation may include an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, depression, other psychiatric conditions, and dementia. Although fertility can be restored with exogenous administration of gonadotropins or pulsatile GnRH, fertility management alone will not permit recovery of the HPA and HPT axes. Failure to reverse the hormonal milieu induced by stress may increase the likelihood of poor obstetrical, fetal, or neonatal outcomes. In contrast, behavioral and psychological interventions that address problematic behaviors and attitudes have the potential to permit resumption of ovarian function along with recovery of the HPT and HPA axes. Full endocrine recovery offers better individual, maternal, and child health.

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