Role of Hormones in Initiating Reproductive Function


This topic gives an overview of;

  • Role of Hormones in Initiating Reproductive Function
  • Reproductive Phase of Life in Humans
  • Other Hormones
  • Role of Hormones in completing the Life History of Insects and Frogs

Role of Hormones in Initiating Reproductive Function

Endocrine glands release hormones into the bloodstream to reach a particular body part called target site. The target site responds to the hormone. There are many endocrine glands or ductless glands in the body.The testes and ovaries secrete sex hormones. You have just learnt that these hormones are responsible for the male and female secondary sexual characters. Further, the sex hormones are under the control of hormones from the pituitary gland. The pituitary secretes many hormones, one of which makes ova mature in the ovaries and sperms form in the testes.

Reproductive Phase of Life in Humans

Adolescents become capable of reproduction when their testes and ovaries begin to produce gametes. The capacity for maturation and production of gametes lasts for a much longer time in males than in females.

In females, the reproductive phase of life begins at puberty (10 to 12 years of age) and generally lasts till the age of approximately 45 to 50 years. The ova begin to mature with the onset of puberty. One ovum matures and is released by one of the ovaries once in about 28 to 30 days. During this period, the wall of the uterus becomes thick so as to receive the egg, in case it is fertilised and begins to develop. This results in pregnancy. If fertilisation does not occur, the released egg, and the thickened lining of the uterus along with its blood vessels are shed off. This causes bleeding in women which is called menstruation. Menstruation occurs once in about 28 to 30 days. The first menstrual flow begins at puberty and is termed menarche. At 45 to 50 years of age, the menstrual cycle stops. Stoppage of menstruation is termed menopause. Initially, menstrual cycle may be irregular. It take some time to become regular.

Menstrual cycle is controlled by hormones. The cycle includes the maturation of the egg, its release, thickening of uterine wall and its breakdown if pregnancy does not occur. In case the egg is fertilised it begins to divide and then gets embedded in the uterus for further development.

How is the Sex of the Baby Determined?

Boy or Girl ?

Inside the fertilised egg or zygote is the instruction for determining the sex of the baby. This instruction is present in the thread-like structures, called chromosomes in the fertilised egg. Chromosomes are present inside the nucleus of every cell. All human beings have 23 pairs of chromosomes in the nuclei of their cells. Two chromosomes out of these are the sex chromosomes, named X and Y. A female has two X chromosomes, while a male has one X and one Y chromosome. The gametes (egg and sperm) have only one set of chromosomes. The unfertilised egg always has one X chromosome. But sperms are of two kinds. One kind has an X chromosome, and the other kind has a Y chromosome.

 When a sperm containing X chromosome fertilises the egg, the zygote would have two X chromosomes and develop into a female child. If the sperm contributes a Y chromosome to the egg (ovum) at fertilisation, the zygote would develop into a male child.

Now you know that the sex chromosomes of the father determine the sex of an unborn baby. The belief that the mother is responsible for the sex of her baby is completely wrong and to blame her for this is totally unjustified.

Other Hormones

The hormones secreted by the pituitary stimulate testes and ovaries to produce their hormones. You have already learnt that the pituitary gland is an endocrine gland. It is attached to the brain.

Apart from the pituitary, the testes and the ovaries, there are other endocrine glands in the body such as thyroid, pancreas and adrenals.

Boojho and Paheli had once visited their aunt who was a doctor and remembered that a boy named Kaka had a very big and bulging throat. Their aunt had told them that Kaka was suffering from ‘goitre’, a disease of the thyroid gland. Kaka’s thyroid gland was not producing the hormone thyroxine.Their aunt also told them that their uncle was suffering from ‘diabetes’ because his pancreas was not producing the hormone insulin in sufficient quantities. Boojho and Paheli then asked their aunt about the adrenal glands, which are also shown in the chart hung on the wall of her clinic. The aunt told them that adrenal glands secrete hormones which maintain the correct salt balance in the blood. Adrenals also produce the hormone adrenalin. It helps the body to adjust to stress when one is very angry, embarrassed or worried.

Thyroid and adrenals secrete their hormones when they receive orders from the pituitary through its hormones. Pituitary also secretes growth hormone which is necessary for the normal growth of a person.

Role of Hormones in completing the Life History of Insects and Frogs

You have already learnt about the life history of the silk moth and the frog. The caterpillar has to pass through various stages to become an adult moth. Recall the stages of the life history of the silk moth. Similarly, the tadpole passes through certain stages to become a frog ).

This change from larva to adult is called metamorphosis. Metamorphosis in insects is controlled by insect hormones. In a frog, it is controlled by thyroxine, the hormone produced by thyroid. Thyroxine production requires the presence of iodine in water. If the water in which the tadpoles are growing does not contain sufficient iodine, the tadpoles cannot become adults.


  • Hormones are secretions of endocrine glands which pour them directly into the blood stream.
  • Pituitary gland secretes hormones which include growth hormone and hormones that make other glands such as the testes, ovaries, thyroids and adrenals, secrete hormones.
  • Pancreas secretes insulin, thyroid produces thyroxine and adrenals produce adrenalin.
  • Testosterone is the male hormone and estrogen, the female hormone.
  • The uterine wall in females prepares itself to receive the developing fertilised egg. In case there is no fertilisation, the thickened lining of the uterine wall breaks down and goes out of the body along with blood. This is called menstruation.
  • Sex of the unborn child depends on whether the zygote has XX or XY chromosomes.


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