The Postnatal Endocrine Surge and Its Effects on Subsequent Sexual Growth

  • Debbie Guatelli-Steinberg
  • Jennifer Boyce


After 1–2 weeks of birth, a newborn experiences a surge in serum concentrations of gonadotropins and sex steroids. The gonadotropins follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) attain peak levels at 2–3 months of postnatal life, stimulating an elevated output of sex steroid hormones (testosterone, estradiol, and inhibin B) from the gonads. This postnatal endocrine surge is sometimes called “mini-puberty” because the concentrations of both gonadotropins and sex steroids reach levels that are not seen again during childhood until puberty. The high levels of gonadotropins and sex steroids during this time provide pediatric endocrinologists with a baseline for assessing the function of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis during infancy. The period over which these hormones remain elevated varies by hormone and by sex, but the duration of exposure is at least several months. Elevated levels of testosterone in male infants during postnatal life appear to have enduring effects on the growth of male external genitalia and on sperm production. Experiments on non-human primate males suggest that the postnatal endocrine surge may also be involved in shaping sexual motivation but not sexual orientation. Much less is known of the effects of the postnatal endocrine surge on sexual growth in females; however, it is clear that high levels of FSH stimulate follicular maturation in the ovary during the postnatal period. Some research on non-human primates also suggests that the skeletal and immune systems may be sensitive to postnatal endocrine events.


Luteinizing Hormone Follicle Stimulate Hormone GnRH Agonist Female Infant GnRH Analogue 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Androgen insensitivity syndrome


Follicle stimulating hormone


Gonadotropin releasing hormone


Human chorionic gonadotropin




Luteinizing hormone


N-methyl-d, l-aspartate


Sex hormone binding globulin



We thank Professor Preedy for the invitation to contribute this chapter. We also appreciate Tracy Betsinger’s help with figures. Thanks also to Anthony Henley’s support and Drs Debra and Thomas Boyce for sharing their knowledge of human physiology.


  1. Achermann JC, Jameson JL. Disorders of sexual differentiation. In: Jameson JL, editor. Harrison’s endocrinology. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2006. pp. 161–72.Google Scholar
  2. Ahmed SF, Cheng A, Hughes IA. Arch Dis Child. 1999;80:324–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Allan C, Handelsman D. In vivo FSH actions. In: Griswold MD, editor. Sertoli Cell Biology London: Elsevier; 2005. pp. 171–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Andersson AM, Toppari J, Haavisto AM, Petersen JH, Simell T, Simell O, Skakkebæk NE. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1998;83:675–81.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Belgorosky A, Chahin S, Chaler E, Maceiras M, Rivarola MA. J Endocrinol Invest. 1996;19:88–91.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Bolton NJ, Tapanainen J, Koivisto M, Vihko R. Clin Endocrinol. 1989;31:201–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bouvattier C, Carel J-C, Lecointre C, David A, Sultan A, Bertrand A-M, Morel Y, Chaussain J-L. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002;87:29–32.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brown GR, Nevison CM, Fraser HM, Dixson AF. Int J Androl 1999;22:119–28.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Burger HG, Yamada Y, Bangah ML, McCloud PI, Warne GL. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1991;72:682–6.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Channing CP, Chacon M, Tanabe K, Gagliano P, Tildon T. Ferlil Steril. 1984;42:861–9.Google Scholar
  11. David KG, Dingemanse E, Freud J, Laqueur E. Hoppe Seylers Z Physiol Chem. 1935;233:281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dixson AF. Horm Behav. 1993;27:216–30.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dixson AF. Primate sexuality. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 1998.Google Scholar
  14. Eisler JA, Tannenbaum Pamela L, Mann DR, Wallen K. Horm Behav. 1993;27:551–67.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Faiman C, Winter JSD. Nature 1971;232:130–1.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fevold HL, Hisaw FL, Leonard SL. Am J Physiol. 1931;97:291–301.Google Scholar
  17. Forest MG, Cathiard AM, Bertrand JA. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1973;37:148–51.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Forest MG, Sizonenko PC, Cathiard AM, Bertrand J. J Clin Invest. 1974;53:819–28.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Forest MG, De Peretti E, Bertrand J. Clin Endocrinol. 1976;5:551–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gässler N, Peuschel T, Pankau R. Clin Lab. 2000;46:553–60.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Gendrel D, Chaussain JL, Roger M, Job JC. J Pediatr 1980;97:600–2.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Goy RW. Development of play and mounting behaviour in female rhesus virilized prenatally with esters of testosterone and dihydrotestosterone. In: Chivers DJ, Herber J, editors. Recent advances in primatology, Vol 1. Behavior. London: Academic; 1978. pp. 449–62.Google Scholar
  23. Grumbach MM. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2005;90:3122–7.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Guatelli-Steinberg D, Sciulli P, Betsinger T. Am J Phys Anthropol. 2008;137:324–33.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Guthrie RD, Smith DW, Graham CB. J Pediatr. 1973;83:247–52.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hadžiselimović F, Girard TJ, Herzog B. J Urol. 1986;136:274–76.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Hadžiselimović F, Zivkovic D, Domingos TGB, Emmons LR. J Urol. 2005;174:1536–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hammond GL, Koivisto M, Kouvalainen K, Vihko RJ. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1979;49:40–5.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lee PA, Brown TR, LaTorre HA. J Am Med Assoc. 1986;25:2207–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lunn SF, Recio R, Morris K, Fraser HM. J Endocrinol. 1994;141:439–47.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Main KM, Schmidt IM, Skakkebæk NE. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2000;85:4905–7PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Mann DR, Fraser HM. J Endocrinol. 1996;149:191–7.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mann DR, Castracane VD, McLaughlin F, Gould DK, Collins DC. Biol Reprod. 1983;28:279–84.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mann DR, Davis-Silva M, Wallen K, Coan P, Evans D, Collins DC. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1984;59:207–11.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Mann DR, Gould KG, Collins DC, Wallen K. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1989;68:600–7.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Mann DR, Akinbami MA, Gould KG, Tanner JM, Wallen K. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1993;76:1319–24.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mann DR, Ansari AA, Akinbami MA, Wallen K, Gould KG, McClure HM. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1994;78:292–8.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Mann DR, Akinbami MA, Wallen K, Gould K, Groome NP, Swanston, McNeilly AS, Fraser HM. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1997;82:1928–33.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Müller J, Skakkebæk NE. Acta Endocrinol. 1984;105:271–4.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Nagel BA, Lippe BM, Griffen JE. J Pediatr. 1986;109:486–8.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Nevison CM, Brown GR, Dixson AF. Physiol Behav. 1997;62:1397–403.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Olsen NJ, Kovacs WJ. Endoc Rev. 1996;17:369–84.Google Scholar
  43. Quigley CA. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002;87:24–8.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Raivio T, Toppari J, Kaleva M, Virtanen H, Haavisto AM, Dunkel L, Jänne OA. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2003;88:2597–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Sharpe RM, Fraser HM, Brougham MFH, McKinnell C, Morris KD, Kelnar CJH, Wallace WHB, Walker M. Hum Reprod. 2003;18:2110–7.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Swaab DF, Hoffman MA. Dev Brain Res. 1998;44:314–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Uli N, Chin D, David R, Geneiser N, Roche K, Marion F, Shapiro E, Prasad K, Oberfield S. J Clin Endcorinol Metab. 1997;82:3298–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Winter JSD, Faiman C, Hobson WC, Prasad AV, Reyes FI. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1975;40:545–51.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Winter JSD, Hughes IA, Reyes FI, Faiman C. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1976;42:679–87.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyThe Ohio State University, 4034 Smith LaboratoryColumbusUSA

Personalised recommendations