Neuroendocrine adaptive responses to psychological stress include activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and sometimes suppression of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis. In women who experience chronic stress, these responses are probably responsible for disturbances in the menstrual cycle. In the present experiment, we investigated the effect of an acutely stressful situation on the physiological and neuroendocrine responses in college age women. We hypothesized that females who are experiencing some degree of abnormal menstrual function or women who have less-robust cycles (oligomenorrheic females) would exhibit differences in gonadotropin secretion from eumenorrheic females when exposed to psychological stressors. Fifteen women completed this study: eumenorrheic (n = 5) and oligomenorrheic women ( n = 5) who experienced a series of psychological stressors, and eumenorrheic controls (n = 5). Blood samples were taken at 10 min intervals for 8 h (09:00-17:00) in each woman during the mid-follicular phase of the menstrual cycle. The psychological stressors were administered for 1 h beginning at 13:00 h. Luteinizing hormone (LH), growth hormone (GH) and cortisol were measured in each sample to assess the effect of stress on secretion of these hormones. Deconvolution analysis was used to analyze pulsatile hormone secretion and the approximate entropy (ApEn) statistic analyzed the regularity of release of each hormone. Although, there were significant changes in heart rate (HR), skin resistance (SR) and cortisol levels in the stressed women during the psychological stressor compared to resting baseline values but not in the controls, there was no difference in either LH or GH secretion between women who experienced stress and those who did not. Furthermore, there were no differences in the LH or GH secretion patterns in the oligomenorrheic and eumenorrheic women exposed to the psychological stressor.
- Psychological stress
- Reproductive hormones