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How acute and chronic stress affect the reproductive system


Narrator:       
This is Science Today. Researchers studying how stress affects the reproductive system have found that acute stress causes a two-fold increase in the production of an inhibitory hormone that suppresses sperm count, ovulation and sexual activity. But integrative biologist, George Bentley, of the University of California, Berkeley says twenty-four hours later, that effect disappears.

Bentley:          So, if you take the stressor away, the effect on inhibitory hormone goes away. So basically, the reproductive system's back to normal. But with chronic stress, if we continue chronic stress for three weeks and then terminate the stressor and then look twenty-four hours later, the effect on inhibitory hormone is still there. So, it seems like chronic stress has longer-term inhibitory effects on the reproductive system.

Narrator:        Bentley says there could be a dual effect of stress on this inhibitory hormone.

Bentley:          I like to think of it as a pause button and a stop button. So, with acute stress, we could activate the inhibitory hormone, which just pauses the reproductive system. But if you keep activating that inhibitory hormone, then you hit the stop button and it takes a while to get the reproductive machinery going again.

Narrator:        For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.