Summary. Morphometric analysis of the follicle population ≥ 100 × 105 μm3 or a mean diameter of ≥ 275 μm and assessment of the rate of atresia in ovaries of pregnant and pseudopregnant rats revealed no evidence for the presence of rhythmic follicular maturation during the prolonged dioestrous period. During the first 4–5 days of the dioestrous period, follicles developed to preovulatory size (volume class 5, i.e. ≥ 1000 × 105 μm3 = diam. ≥ 576 μm) reaching the normal number of ovulating follicles in cyclic animals in pregnant rats, but only half that number in pseudopregnant rats. These follicles collapsed on the 5th to 8th days of the dioestrous period and full numbers of preovulatory follicles were not found thereafter until the end of pregnancy and pseudopregnancy. Follicles of smaller sizes (classes 1–4: 100–999 × 105μm3), however, were present throughout the prolonged dioestrous period. The rate of atresia in the follicle population had increased by the 2nd day and remained from then on at 26·5 ± 4·5% in the pregnant and 34·3 ± 1·9% in the pseudopregnant rats. Atretic follicles in the advanced stages of atresia, mostly derived from follicles of classes 1–3, persisted and accumulated at the end of the dioestrous period.
The continuous presence of follicles and the constant rate of atresia during the dioestrous period indicate continuous follicular replacements and refute the idea of follicular quiescence during pregnancy and pseudopregnancy. Copulation and electrical stimulation of the cervix seemed to reduce the formation of the new crop of follicles the next morning and the pool of small antral follicles normally maintained after oestrus in cyclic animals. Nevertheless, the smaller crop and pool of follicles seemed able to provide a sufficient number of preovulatory follicles at the end of pregnancy and a sufficient number of ovulations at the end of pseudopregnancy.