The focus of this Special Interest Group is on the early life factors affecting male and female reproductive function.
Data collection has included hormonal measures in pregnancy from mothers of boys and girls within the Raine study, measurement of sex steroid hormones in the umbilical cord blood, hormonal measures, questionnaires and pelvic ultrasound in adolescent girls and questionnaires about pelvic pain and menstrual disorders in young women and a male reproductive assessment was performed on the boys at 20 years.
Data on the timing of the first menstrual period (menarche) and menstrual bleeding patterns have also been collected and a subset of adolescents age 14-16 were tested for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.
Use of hormonal contraception, pregnancies and fertility are still being measured.
Fertility measures from young women and men from the Raine Study have provided new information about normal fertility relevant internationally and new evidence to inform how the early life environment affects fertility in men and women. This Special Interest Group works closely with allied groups in mental health, metabolic health, sexual risk-taking and breast health to better understand the relationships between hormones, behavior and long-term health outcomes in the Raine study.
The Raine Study hormonal and reproductive data is currently being used to understand how the early life environment may influence the menstrual cycle, with respect to pelvic pain and menstrual bleeding patterns and ovulation in women and male reproductive function.
Prof Roger Hart, The University of Western Australia
Prof Martha Hickey, The University of Melbourne
Dr Melanie Walls, The University of Western Australia
Key findings over the last 30 years have included:
- Menarche represents the start of female reproductive life and age at menarche is a strong predictor of long-term physical and emotional health. Data from the Raine study were the first to report how early life exposures affect age at menarche1,2 and how body mass index (BMI) and age at menarche affect risk of cardiovascular and metabolic disease in young adults3
- Female fertility (the “ovarian reserve”) is fixed during fetal life and ovarian follicles cannot be replaced after birth. The Raine Study Hormonal and Reproduction Special Interest group have generated world-first data informing how the prenatal environment may influence ovarian reserve
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome affects around 6% of reproductive age women. The reasons why PCOS develops are not fully understood. Data from the Raine study was the first to demonstrate the prenatal exposures to androgens did not predict PCOS in adolescents. These findings were considered “hypothesis changing” when published in the prestigious Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism4
- Raine Study data have also informed how early life events influence male reproduction including new evidence for how early life exposures and the early life environment affect male reproductive function5,6
Maternal smoking reduces uterine volume in adolescent daughters
Hart R, Sloboda DM, Doherty DA, Norman RJ, Atkinson HC, Newnham JP, Dickinson JE, Hickey M. Prenatal determinants of uterine volume and ovarian reserve in adolescence. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2009;94(12):4931-7.
Adult diagnostic criteria for PCOS cannot be applied to adolescent girls
Hickey M, Doherty DA, Atkinson H, Sloboda DM, Franks S, Norman RJ, Hart R. Clinical, ultrasound and biochemical features of polycystic ovary syndrome in adolescents: implications for diagnosis. Human Reproduction. 2011;26(6):1469-77.
Adolescent girls with features of PCOS may be at risk for metabolic disorders in later life.
Hart R, Doherty DA, Mori T, Huang RC, Norman RJ, Franks S, Sloboda D, Beilin L, Hickey M. Extent of metabolic risk in adolescent girls with features of polycystic ovary syndrome. Fertility and Sterility. 2011;95(7):2347-53.
Phthalates exposure in pregnancy and the impact on female reproductive development
Hart R, Doherty DA, Frederiksen H, Keelan JA, Hickey M, Sloboda D, Pennell CE, Newnham JP, Skakkebaek NE, Main KM. The influence of antenatal exposure to phthalates on subsequent female reproductive development in adolescence: a pilot study. Reproduction. 2014;147(4):379-90.
Testicular function in a birth cohort of young men.
Hart RJ, Doherty DA, McLachlan RI, Walls ML, Keelan JA, Dickinson JE, Skakkebaek NE, Norman RJ, Handelsman DJ. Testicular function in a birth cohort of young men. Human Reproduction. 2015;30(12):2713-24.
Maternal smoking leads to reduced sperm counts in young men
Hart RJ, Doherty DA, Keelan JA, McLachlan R, Skakkebaek NE, Norman RJ, Dickinson JE, Pennell CE, Newnham JP, Hickey M, Handelsman DJ. Early Life Events Predict Adult Testicular Function; Data Derived From the Western Australian (Raine) Birth Cohort. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.. 2016;101(9):3333-44.
Higher estrogen exposures before birth are associated with earlier age at menarche (first menstrual period) in girls
Hickey M, Lawson LP, Marino JL, Keelan JA, Hart R. Relationship between umbilical cord sex hormone binding globulin, sex steroids, and age at menarche: a prospective cohort study. Fertility and Sterility. 2018;110(5):965-73.
Exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals during prenatal life affects reproductive function of adolescent girls and young men
Hart RJ, Frederiksen H, Doherty DA, Keelan JA, Skakkebaek NE, Minaee NS, McLachlan R, Newnham JP, Dickinson JE, Pennell CE, Norman RJ, Main KM. The Possible Impact of Antenatal Exposure to Ubiquitous Phthalates Upon Male Reproductive Function at 20 Years of Age. Frontiers in Endocrinology (Lausanne). 2018;9:288.
The impact of BPA exposure in pregnancy on male reproductive function
Hart RJ, Doherty DA, Keelan JA, Minaee NS, Thorstensen EB, Dickinson JE, Pennell CE, Newnham JP, McLachlan R, Norman RJ, Handelsman DJ. The impact of antenatal Bisphenol A exposure on male reproductive function at 20-22 years of age. Reproductive Biomedicine Online. 2018;36(3):340-47.
Most adolescent girls with irregular menstrual cycles are still ovulating despite irregular and infrequent periods
Peña AS, DohertyDA, Atkinson HC, Hickey M, Norman RJ, HartR. The impact of antenatal Bisphenol A exposure on male reproductive function at 20-22 years of age. Archives of Disease in Childhood. 2018;103(3):235-39.
- Sloboda DM, Hart, R., Doherty, D.A., Pennell, C.E., Hickey, M. Age at menarche: Influences of prenatal and postnatal growth. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2007;92(1):46-50.
- Hickey M, Lawson LP, Marino JL, Keelan JA, Hart R. Relationship between umbilical cord sex hormone binding globulin, sex steroids, and age at menarche: a prospective cohort study. Fertil Steril. 2018;110(5):965-973.
- Le-Ha C, Beilin LJ, Burrows S, et al. Age at menarche and childhood body mass index as predictors of cardio-metabolic risk in young adulthood: A prospective cohort study. PLoS One. 2018;13(12):e0209355.
- Hickey M, Sloboda DM, Atkinson HC, et al. The relationship between maternal and umbilical cord androgen levels and polycystic ovary syndrome in adolescence: a prospective cohort study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2009;94(10):3714-3720.
- Hart RJ, Doherty DA, Keelan JA, et al. Early Life Events Predict Adult Testicular Function; Data Derived From the Western Australian (Raine) Birth Cohort. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2016;101(9):3333-3344.
- Brauner EV, Hansen AM, Doherty DA, et al. The association between in-utero exposure to stressful life events during pregnancy and male reproductive function in a cohort of 20-year-old offspring: The Raine Study. Human reproduction (Oxford, England). 2019.