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Hormone Production and Regulation in Males and Females

As we noted previously, in addition to their roles in creating gametes, the testes and ovaries also produce and secrete the major male and female sex hormones.

Testosterone production begins in males during early embryonic development, and is responsible for the development of an embryo as a male rather than a female. After birth, the production of testosterone is inhibited until about the age of ten, when a surge in its production triggers the onset of puberty. The testosterone produced during this period stimulates the testes to begin producing sperm. It is also responsible for the development of the male secondary sexual characteristics, including the development of facial and body hair, deepening of the voice, and the growth of muscle tissue. The production of testosterone is at all times controlled by various pituitary hormones and the hypothalamus.


In females, the hypothalamus controls the release of various pituitary hormones which interact with estrogen and progesterone to create the menstrual cycle, the period from ovulation to menstruation that occurs on a monthly basis. As in males, the onset of puberty follows increased secretion of sex hormones, and, in addition to initiating the menstrual cycle, causes the development of the female secondary sexual characteristics, which include enlargement of the hips and breasts.

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