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Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2002 Nov;13(9):386-92.

Programming and reproductive functioning.

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  • 1Reproductive Medicine Unit, Dept Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Adelaide, 5005, Adelaide, Australia.


Here, we explore the influence of fetal programming and early life exposures on lifelong reproductive health through modification of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis. A range of programming issues are considered with examples from the literature demonstrating that environmental or nutritive exposures have a crucial role in reproductive performance, fetal growth, postnatal development and reproduction-related disease risk. We pay particular attention to recent research on associations between indicators of fetal and postnatal growth and the etiology of polycystic ovary syndrome in women. We conclude that the concept of programming can be applied to reproductive development and related health outcomes, and that the complex potential for interactions between parameters controlling fetal development and postnatal exposures invokes a need to adopt a perspective across the life course of an individual.

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