1932

Abstract

Amenorrhea, anovulatory cycles, miscarriages, and other reproductive outcomes are often seen as pathological. Life history theory, in contrast, treats those outcomes as adaptations that helped women optimize the timing of reproductive ventures across our evolutionary history. Women's bodies adjust their reproductive strategies in response to socio-ecological conditions, a process mediated by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPAA). Here, we review the links between socio-ecological conditions, HPAA activity, and the pace of women's reproductive transitions such as puberty, age at first birth, interbirth interval, and perimenopause. We also discuss the HPAA's role as a modulator of reproductive function: It not only suppresses it but may also prime women's bodies for future reproductive ventures. We conclude by reviewing challenges and opportunities within our subfield, including the need for transdisciplinary teams to develop longitudinal studies to improve our understanding of women's reproductive trajectories and outcomes from the moment they are conceived.

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2020-10-21
2024-06-17
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