A new model for ovarian follicular development during the human menstrual cycle

Fertil Steril. 2003 Jul;80(1):116-22. doi: 10.1016/s0015-0282(03)00544-2.


Objective: To evaluate changes in ovarian follicle dynamics during the human menstrual cycle to test the hypothesis that folliculogenesis occurs in a wave-like fashion.

Design: Prospective longitudinal study.

Setting: Healthy volunteers in an academic research environment.

Patient(s): Fifty healthy women of reproductive age (range 19-43 years) with a history of regular menstrual cycles not taking medications known to interfere with reproductive function were evaluated.

Intervention(s): Transvaginal ultrasonography was performed daily for one interovulatory interval (IOI).

Main outcome measure(s): Changes in the diameter and number of follicles > or =5 mm were evaluated.

Result(s): Sixty-eight percent of women exhibited two waves of follicle development during the IOI and 32% exhibited three waves. Waves were characterized by an increase and subsequent decrease in the number of follicles > or =5 mm occurring in association with the growth of > or =2 follicles to > or =6 mm. A day effect and day by wave interaction were detected in the mean diameter of the largest three follicles and the number of follicles > or =5 mm.

Conclusion(s): The follicular wave phenomenon in women provides a new model for ovarian function during the menstrual cycle and will improve our understanding of the ovarian response to fertility and hormonal contraceptive regimens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Menstrual Cycle / physiology*
  • Ovarian Follicle / diagnostic imaging
  • Ovarian Follicle / physiology*
  • Ovulation / physiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Ultrasonography