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Stimulatory Effect of Morning Bright Light on Reproductive Hormones and Ovulation

Catherine McDiarmid-Watt | Friday, August 03, 2007 | 0 comments

Stimulatory Effect of Morning Bright Light on Reproductive Hormones and Ovulation: Results of a Controlled Crossover Trial

Objectives: Studies have shown a shortening of the menstrual cycle following light exposure in women with abnormally long menstrual cycles or with winter depression, suggesting that artificial light can influence reproductive hormones and ovulation. The study was designed to investigate this possibility.

Design: Placebo-controlled, crossover, counterbalanced order.

Setting: Medical centres and participants' homes in Novosibirsk (55°N), Russia.

Participants: Twenty-two women, aged 19–37 years, with baseline menstrual cycle length 28.1–37.8 d and no clinically evident endocrine abnormalities completed the study. The study lasted for two menstrual cycles separated by at least one off-protocol cycle.

Interventions: During one experimental cycle, bright light was administered at home for 1 wk with a light box emitting white light at 4,300 lux at 41 cm for 45 min shortly after awakening. During the other experimental cycle, dim light was less than 100 lux at 41 cm with a one-tube fluorescent source.

Outcome Measures: Blood samples and ultrasound scans were obtained in the afternoon before and after the week of light exposure, on day ∼7 and 14 after menstruation onset. Further ultrasound scans after day 14 documented ovulation. Serum was assayed for thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), prolactin (PRL), luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), and estradiol (E2).

Results: Concentrations of PRL, LH, and FSH were significantly increased with bright versus dim light exposure, as was follicle size (ANOVA, intervention × day, p = 0.0043, 0.014, 0.049, and 0.042, respectively). The number of ovulatory cycles increased after exposure to bright compared to dim light (12 versus 6 cycles, Wilcoxon tied p = 0.034).

Conclusions: Morning exposure to bright light in the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle stimulates the secretion of hypophyseal reproductive hormones, promotes ovary follicle growth, and increases ovulation rates in women with slightly lengthened menstrual cycles. This might be a promising method to overcome infertility.

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About Catherine: I am mom to three grown sons, two grandchildren and two rescue dogs. After years of raising my boys as a single mom, I remarried a wonderful man who had never had a child of his own. Unexpectedly, I found myself pregnant at 49!
Sadly we lost that precious baby at 8 weeks, and decided to try again. Five more losses, turned down for donor egg, foster care and adoption due to my age and losses - we have accepted that there will be no more babies in our house.

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