Ovarian morphology as a function of age

The numbers of ovarian primordial follicles reach their peak during fetal life. About one million are present at birth and the number then decreases progressively with age. Semi-logarithmic plots of ovarian follicle numbers as a function of age suggests that there is an increase in the rate of follicle loss at approximately age 38, so that the curve appears to be biexponential (Richardson et al 1987). This interpretation of the data has been challenged (Leidy et al 1998). Few if any follicles remain at the time of the cessation of menses and follicular numbers in older women whose cycles have become irregular are about 1/10 of those in women of similar age in whom ovarian cyclicity continues. Whether or not the rate of loss of follicles changes at age 38, there is clearly an alteration in oocyte function as fecundity decreases markedly at around that time (Schwartz & Mayaux 1982).

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