Growth patterns and associated endocrine profiles were compared between dominant anovulatory (ADF) and ovulatory follicles (OvF) developing from different waves within and between menstrual cycles in women. Follicular mapping profiles of 49 healthy women of reproductive age and blood samples were obtained every 1–3 days. Sixty-three dominant follicles were classified into wave 1 (W1ADF; n = 8) and wave 2 (W2ADF; n = 6) anovulatory follicles and wave 2 (W2OvF; n = 33) and wave 3 (W3OvF; n = 16) ovulatory follicles. Comparisons were made between W1ADF and W2ADF, W2ADF and W2OvF, and W2OvF and W3OvF. The waves were numbered 1, 2, or 3 based on when the waves emerged relative to the preceding ovulation. W1ADF emerged closer to the preceding ovulation, and W2ADF emerged in the late luteal or early follicular phase. The interval from emergence to maximum diameter was shorter for W2ADF than W1ADF and for W3OvF than W2OvF. Selection of W3OvF occurred at a smaller diameter compared to W2OvF. W1ADF regressed at a faster rate than W2ADF. Also, W1ADF were associated with lower mean FSH and higher mean estradiol than W2ADF. In contrast, W3OvF were associated with higher FSH and LH compared to W2OvF. However, W2OvF were associated with higher progesterone than W3OvF. This study contributes to the understanding of the physiologic mechanisms underlying selection of the dominant follicle, ovulation, and pathophysiology of anovulation in women, as well as optimization of ovarian stimulation protocols for assisted reproduction.
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