This article is part of a Special Issue "SBN 2014". Chronic stress is known to inhibit female reproductive function. Consequently, it is often assumed that glucocorticoid (GC) concentrations should be negatively correlated with reproductive success because of the role they play in stress physiology. In contrast, a growing body of evidence indicates that GCs play an active role in promoting reproductive function. It is precisely because GCs are so integral to the entire process that disruptions to adrenal activity have negative consequences for reproduction. The goal of this paper is to draw attention to the increasing evidence showing that increases in adrenal activity are important for healthy female reproduction. Furthermore, we outline several hypotheses about the functional role(s) that GCs may play in mediating reproduction and argue that comparative studies between eutherian and marsupial mammals, which exhibit some pronounced differences in reproductive physiology, may be particularly useful for testing different hypotheses about the functional role of GCs in reproduction. Much of our current thinking about GCs and reproduction comes from research involving stress-induced levels of GCs and has led to broad assumptions about the effects of GCs on reproduction. Unfortunately, this has left a gaping hole in our knowledge about basal GC levels and how they may influence reproductive function, thereby preventing a broader understanding of adrenal physiology and obscuring potential solutions for reproductive dysfunction.