Autonomic mechanisms are fundamental to human physiological thermoregulation, and female reproductive hormones have substantial influences on several aspects of these mechanisms. Of these, the best recognized are the thermoregulatory responses that occur at menopause (hot flushes) and the changes in body temperature within the menstrual cycle which may help couples predict ovulation. Our goal in this brief review is to summarize current knowledge regarding the influences of reproductive hormones on autonomic mechanisms in human thermoregulation. In general, estrogens tend to promote lower body temperatures via augmentation of heat dissipation responses, whereas progesterone tends to promote higher body temperatures. Recent evidence suggests specific influences of estrogens on central autonomic nuclei involved in control of skin blood flow and sweating. Estrogens also augment vasodilation by direct effects on peripheral blood vessels. Influences of progesterone are less well understood, but include both centrally regulated changes in thermoregulatory set-point as well as and peripheral effects, including augmented vasoconstriction in the skin. We conclude with a brief discussion of thermoregulatory adjustments associated with changing hormone levels during menopause, pregnancy and polycystic ovary syndrome.
Keywords: Blood flow; Body temperature; Estrogen; Progesterone; Sweating; Women.
Published by Elsevier B.V.