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HYPOTHALAMUS: Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) is released by the hypothalamus (at the base of the brain). GnRH is needed to begin the ovulatory cycle. PITUITARY: GnRH is secreted into the pituitary gland (located right below the hypothalamus) where it stimulates the release of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). FSH and LH promote the development of the ovarian follicle that contains an egg.
OVARY: FSH acts on the ovary to continue growth and development of the follicle. Within the follicle, FSH promotes the production of estrogen. Estrogen causes a mid-cycle surge in LH, which stimulates ovulation. The follicle ruptures and the oocyte (egg) is released.
ENDOMETRIUM: The remaining cells in the follicle transform into an endocrine tissue called the corpus luteum, which secretes progesterone to prepare the endometrium for implantation of an embryo if fertilization should occur.