Annual rhythm of human reproduction: II. Environmental correlations

J Biol Rhythms. Fall 1990;5(3):217-39. doi: 10.1177/074873049000500304.


Annual rhythms of human conception rates (based on a worldwide selection of statistics) were correlated with photoperiod, monthly averages of daily hours of sunshine, minimum and maximum temperature, and humidity. Our results show for the first time on a global scale that photoperiod, as shown for many animals, may also influence the physiology of human reproduction. At higher latitudes, where changes in daylength are pronounced, a steep increase in human conceptions coincides with the vernal equinox. Temperature also appears to be a major influencing factor. Conception rates are above the annual mean at temperatures between 5 degrees and 20 degrees C, and temperature extremes decrease the probability of conceptions. In regions with cold winters and moderate summers, the number of conceptions correlates positively with temperature; close to the equator, where winters are more moderate than the hot summers, this correlation is negative. Regions with both hot summers and cold winters tend to have a bimodal conception rhythm. The influence of photoperiod is dominant before 1930, whereas the impact of temperature dominates in later years. With industrialization, people are increasingly shielded from both photoperiod (by indoor work) and temperature (by heating and air conditioning), which may explain the deseasonalization of the human conception rhythm. Photoperiod and temperature and the specific changes in their impact can account for several features of the annual human conception rhythm: latitude dependence, waveform, phase and amplitude, and their specific changes over time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Climate
  • Environment*
  • Female
  • Geography
  • Humans
  • Humidity
  • Light
  • Male
  • Periodicity*
  • Reproduction / physiology*
  • Seasons
  • Sunlight
  • Temperature