Atypical estradiol secretion and ovulation patterns caused by luteal out-of-phase (LOOP) events underlying irregular ovulatory menstrual cycles in the menopausal transition.
OBJECTIVE: The menopausal transition is characterized by irregular menstrual cycles and unpredictable hormone levels, including dramatic swings in estradiol (E2). An increasing number of studies have found variable high E2 and low luteal phase progesterone occur with progression of Stages of Reproductive Aging Workshop (STRAW)stage, but the cause remains unclear. To explore the causes of the erratic changes in E2, individual within-cycle secretion patterns of E2, progesterone, follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, inhibin A, and inhibin B were explored in detail. DESIGN: Blood samples taken three times per week over 1 1/3 menstrual cycles from 77 women aged 21 to 55 classified as mid-reproductive age (STRAW stages 5 and 4; n = 21), late-reproductive age (STRAW stages 4 and 3; n = 16), early menopausal transition (STRAW stage 2; n = 17), and late menopausal transition (STRAW stage 1; n = 23) were analyzed. RESULTS: Eleven of the 29 (37%) early and late menstrual transition ovulatory cycles exhibited a specific pattern of E2 secretion that was characterized by a second increase in E2 during the mid- and late luteal phases and that continued to a peak during the subsequent menstrual phase. This second rise and fall in E2 was typical in appearance of a normal follicular phase, except that it was superimposed on an existing ovulatory cycle(specifically during the luteal and menstrual phases). The pattern was therefore referred to as a luteal out-of-phase(LOOP) follicular event. In four of these LOOP cycles, a luteinizing hormone peak and ovulatory episode followed the second E2 peak early in the subsequent cycle. Compared with the typical ovulatory cycles, the cycles with LOOP events exhibited lower luteal phase progesterone, higher early cycle follicle-stimulating hormone, and lower early cycle inhibin B. They were also associated with abnormally short (<21 d) or long (>40 d) cycle length. CONCLUSIONS: Many of the marked increases in ovulatory cycle E2 and cycle irregularities during the menopausal transition may be due to LOOP events and appear to be triggered by prolonged high follicular phase follicle-stimulating hormone levels.
Hale, GE; Hughes, CL; Burger, HG; Robertson, DM; Fraser, IS
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