Neighborhood Poverty May Impact Women’s Ovarian Reserves

(HealthDay News) — Living in a neighborhood with greater poverty in adulthood is tied to lower ovarian reserve, according to a study published online March 5 in Menopause.

Anwesha Pan, from the University of Washington in Seattle, and colleagues aimed to examine the association between neighborhood poverty and ovarian reserve. The analysis included data from 1,019 healthy premenopausal women participating in the Ovarian Aging Study.

The researchers found that there was a significant association between age and antimüllerian hormone (AMH), which varied by degree of exposure to neighborhood poverty in adulthood (b = −0.001). There were progressive declines observed in AMH across women exposed to low, medium, and high levels of neighborhood poverty. The main effects analysis showed that higher neighborhood poverty was significantly associated with higher AMH only in younger women (b = 0.022). There were no significant associations seen for antral follicle count.

“This study highlights the potential effect of early life adversity, and specifically neighborhood poverty, on ovarian reserve, which in turn has implications for the timing of menopause onset and risk for diseases of aging,” Stephanie Faubion, M.D., medical director of The Menopause Society, said in a statement. “These findings add to the understanding of the adverse effect of psychological stress on reproductive health.”

According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Black women have the second highest rate of poverty, 25.7 percent, only after Native American women at 28.7 percent.

What is the antimüllerian hormone?

The antimüllerian hormone (AMH), also known as Müllerian-inhibiting substance (MIS), is a protein hormone crucial in regulating reproductive development and fertility in both males and females. Discovered in the late 20th century, AMH plays a significant role in sexual differentiation during fetal development and in the regulation of ovarian function.

Ovarian follicles produce AMH starting at the early stages of follicular development. Its levels are highest in pre-antral and small antral follicles and decline as follicles mature. AMH is a marker of ovarian reserve, reflecting the quantity of follicles remaining in the ovaries. Thus, measuring AMH levels has become a valuable tool in assessing ovarian function and predicting fertility potential in women.

AMH plays a role in regulating ovarian folliculogenesis, the process of follicle development within the ovaries. It exerts its effects by inhibiting the recruitment of primordial follicles into the growing pool, thereby regulating the rate of follicular depletion. This function is crucial in maintaining the balance between follicle activation and depletion throughout a woman’s reproductive life. High levels of AMH are associated with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a common endocrine disorder characterized by hormonal imbalance and ovarian dysfunction.

Studies suggest potential applications of AMH in cancer diagnosis and treatment, particularly in ovarian and prostate cancers, where AMH receptors are expressed. Furthermore, understanding the regulation of AMH synthesis and signaling pathways may lead to the development of novel therapeutic interventions for reproductive disorders and other conditions.

Abstract/Full Text (subscription or payment may be required)

Read More About Ob/Gyn & Women's Health