It’s very common to blame hormones for everything: For feeling moody, for getting emotional, for getting nostalgic, or having hot flashes. But how much do you really know about them and the role they play in women’s health?
In aims of helping you better understand hormones and their functions in the human body, below is an overview of what they are, how they affect women’s health, and a menopause and cancer treatment known as hormone therapy.
What are Hormones?
Hormones are compounds secreted by the endocrine glands. They control bodily functions, such as hunger, metabolism, energy levels, sleep, body temperature, energy, the immune system, reproduction, and mood.
There are many glands in the body that create different types of hormones, for both women and men. For example, the thyroid produces hormones that regulate the heart rate. Cortisol aids the body in processing stress. Melatonin regulates sleep. Testosterone helps increase bone density, endurance, muscle mass, and sex drive. Leptin regulates appetite. Oxytocin is also known as “the love hormone”, which lowers blood pressure when you touch a loved one. It can also increase your sex drive.
When the glands that produce specific types of hormones experience changes (due to age, illness, or environmental factors), women experience uncomfortable symptoms. If the imbalance is significant, it can be life-altering.
The Role of Hormones in Women’s Health
Estrogen and progesterone are the main female hormones and are produced by the ovaries.
The hormone estrogen promotes the development of female characteristics, such as the menstrual cycle and having a healthy uterus. It also regulates bone health and mood management.
Types of Estrogen
There are three types of estrogen:
Estrone is higher in teenagers and young women. When imbalanced, a woman will experience moodiness, cravings, fatigue, heavy periods, and spotting between periods. It’s made by the ovaries and by fat cells. Therefore, when estrone levels are high, women are also more prone to weight gain.
Estradiol is also high during the teens and throughout the 20s, with a slight decrease throughout the 30s and 40s. It’s responsible for smooth skin and a higher sex drive.
Estriol is mostly produced when a woman is pregnant. It’s responsible for nourishing the baby and the placenta. It also promotes the growth of the fetus, prepares breasts for lactation and the vagina for delivery.
Progesterone regulates the menstrual cycle, prepares the uterus for pregnancy, and helps maintain a healthy environment for the baby. This is why it’s also known as “the pregnancy hormone”. When a woman ovulates, her progesterone level increases, then decreases once she starts menstruation.
Because progesterone gets the uterus ready for implantation of a fertilized egg, low levels of this hormone can cause the uterus to reject the egg. If pregnancy does occur, a progesterone imbalance may cause miscarriage or preterm labor.
While estrogen and progesterone are the main female hormones, it’s important to keep in mind that a hormonal imbalance on any type of hormone could affect a woman’s health.
This is especially the case when a woman is going through menopause, when a reduction in certain hormones can lead to osteoporosis, loss of sex drive, reduced skin elasticity, or depression.
What Causes Hormonal Imbalances?
A person’s hormones can become imbalanced due to several factors: not getting enough nutrients, living in constant stress, being overweight, certain medications, allergic reactions, menopause, family history, eating disorders, or air pollution.
Hormonal Imbalance in Women
When a woman is going through a hormonal imbalance, she’ll experience any of the following symptoms:
- Weight gain due to a slower metabolism
- Decreased sex drive
- Difficulty sleeping
- Thinning hair
- Chronic stress
- Frequent thirst
- Facial hair
Imbalances may also affect heart rate, bone density, blood pressure, and fertility.
Hormone Therapy for Women
Hormone therapy is used to treat women with cancer to block certain hormones; while hormone replacement therapy is administered to women who are going through menopause to replace the loss of estrogen.
They each have different side effects, and which type a woman needs will depend on her specific medical history.
Call OB-GYN Women’s Centre of Lakewood Ranch for More Information
At OB-GYN Women’s Centre of Lakewood Ranch, we provide a variety of services for every woman, throughout all stages of life. Whether you’re scheduling your first visit with a gynecologist, going through pregnancy, menopause, or believe you may be experiencing hormonal imbalance, let us help you.
Call us today to schedule an appointment.