Temperature within mammalian reproductive tissues is noted to be a key component of fertility, and significant gradients in temperature can be demonstrated deep within the abdomen shortly before ovulation. Indeed, in the absence of such gradients in the ovary and genital tract, the processes of ovulation and fertilisation are severely compromised. This review aims to assess literature produced during the last five decades regarding temperature gradients in the mammalian ovary and genital tract. A large body of observations derived from rabbits, women, pigs and cattle is summarised in tabular form, ovarian follicular values being as much as 2.5 °C or more cooler than neighbouring ovarian tissues or deep rectal temperature. We highlight recent works demonstrating a positive correlation between pre-ovulatory follicular cooling and pregnancy. Understanding the significance of follicular cooling should help us (a) explain why so many potential pregnancies fail in vivo as in vitro and (b) inspire ways for improving the processes of fertilisation and establishment of a full-term pregnancy. Based on our findings in domestic animals, and most recently in cows whose Graafian follicles are comparable in size and timing of response to the LH peak with human follicles, we wish to encourage IVF and fertility preservation clinics to take advantage of this work. By so doing, the incidence of full-term pregnancies in women should be improved.
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