Estrogen is an important hormone found in women. The hormone is highly responsible for regulating reproductive health in women.
But, besides reproductive health, people aren’t aware of excess information related to estrogen.
Hence, this article would help you with basic and essential details related to estrogen for a better knowledge of the hormone.
What Is Estrogen?
Estrogens are hormones responsible for secondary sexual characteristics and sexual and reproductive growth in women.
The hormone is primarily secreted in grape-sized glands called ovaries. But, other parts like fat cells and adrenal glands also contribute to the overall concentration of estrogen in women.
You would find low estrogen levels in men, which are produced by the adrenal glands and testes. Men’s estrogen is essential for optimum sperm count and other health benefits.
In women, the hormone plays a significant role throughout their life. The hormone regulates the onset of puberty and related changes.
Moreover, it is helpful during menstrual cycles, pregnancy, menopause, and other reproductive events.
Types Of Estrogen
A woman produces four different types of estrogen by the time she reaches menopause. All these estrogens are differentiated based on their roles in the female body.
Estrone is a weaker form of estrogen primarily synthesized in the ovaries. Estrone is the only estrogen form that exists in the body after crossing menopause.
But, the hormone production would experience a drop during pregnancy and menopause.
Estrone is a weak estrogen form that may contribute to bone maintenance. Additionally, estrone could be converted to other forms per the body’s requirements.
Estradiol is a necessary estrogen form during the reproductive years for a woman. The estrogen type is mainly produced in the ovaries, but it could also be found in males.
The hormone’s role is to nourish and maintain the reproductive system and keep it healthy. But, abnormal levels of estradiol may cause different changes in the body.
Generally, higher estradiol concentration may cause problems like acne, osteoporosis, loss of sex drive, depression, etc.
Moreover, excessive estradiol production may lead to uterine and breast cancer in some cases. But, women with low estradiol may experience weight gain and heart diseases.
Estriol is an effective estrogen form during pregnancy. The hormone is produced in the placenta and plays a crucial role in uterine growth and preparing the body for birth.
Generally, a woman experiences the highest estriol concentration just before giving birth. But, alongside pregnancy, the estrogen form may help treat some chronic autoimmune diseases.
Estetrol is barely observed in a woman as the growing fetus primarily synthesizes it. Hence, estetrol production could be seen during pregnancy.
Estrogen Produced By Other Sources
The human body doesn’t synthesize all the estrogen types. Some estrogen varieties could be produced by other sources like plants, artificially by humans, etc.
Phytoestrogens are estrogen-like compounds in plants and plant products like soybeans, legumes, flaxseeds, cereal bran, etc.
Phytoestrogens may have a varying impact on the human body, like estrogen favoring or anti-estrogenic. But, the actions aren’t effective like the estrogens produced by the human body.
Generally, phytoestrogen-containing plants or dietary supplements are consumed to treat menopausal symptoms. But, you should consult doctors before adding such supplements to your diet.
Synthetic or artificially prepared estrogens are highly essential to treat several medical conditions.
These synthetically prepared estrogens contain Ethinyl estradiol, which makes these estrogens more effective than natural estrogens.
Hence, these estrogens are significantly used in oral contraceptives, birth control pills, and hormone therapies. But, these synthetic estrogens may interfere with your natural estrogen production.
For example, women consuming breast cancer drugs containing artificial estrogens may experience low natural estrogen production.
Xenoestrogens are harmful compounds similar to estrogen produced outside the body. Primarily, xenoestrogens are found in different substances, including plastics, electronics, pesticides, medicines, soaps, etc.
Hence, unhealthy disposal of such products pollutes the environment with these harmful compounds.
Xenoestrogens’ entry into the human body may affect an individual’s overall growth and development. Moreover, it could also affect sexual development and reproductive health.
Estrogen’s Role In The Female Reproductive System
Estrogen is a vital hormone that regulates females’ secondary sexual characteristics. But, the hormone is also essential for developing and maintaining the female reproductive system.
Hence, during the development of the reproductive system, estrogen makes some visible structural changes.
Generally, estrogen is supplied to the body by the ovaries. But, the hormone could help stimulate egg follicle growth in the ovaries.
As a girl reaches adolescence, estrogen makes the vaginal walls thicker. Moreover, the hormone also promotes better lubrication in the vagina.
Thus, higher lubrication prevents vaginal dryness and makes sexual activities comfortable.
Estrogen could be beneficial for enhancing and maintaining the mucosal membrane or lines in the uterus walls. Thus, better regulation results in improved flow and thickness of the uterine mucous.
Hence, the thick mucus secretion would help prevent the entry of the sperm until ovulation. After ovulation, thicker mucus would make passage for sperm to fuse to the egg.
Estrogen has a significant role in increasing breast size. The hormone helps form and accumulate breast tissues.
Moreover, the hormone would help stop milk production and flow after the baby shifts to other food sources from the mother’s milk.
Estrogen’s Role In Women’s Reproductive Processes
Estrogen is a chemical messenger that helps control and regulate different reproductive processes of a woman. These processes further result in vital changes in the body.
The estrogen level starts increasing when a girl approaches puberty. The increased estrogen concentration during puberty results in visible changes in the body, like increasing breast size, overall body composition, etc.
Alongside this, the hormone would help fully develop the reproductive organs and genitals at puberty.
Estrogen plays a definite role in keeping the menstrual cycle regular. The hormone exists in equal concentration with other responsible hormones like LH, FSH, and progesterone to regulate the menstrual cycle.
Generally, estrogen would be required for timely ovulation, i.e., the release of an egg. Moreover, it would help thicken the uterus linings to make it suitable for a healthy pregnancy.
Estrogen could be helpful for the better fertility of a woman. Generally, the estrogen level in the body increases while releasing the egg.
Such an increase causes a few changes essential for higher pregnancy chances. Estrogen would help make the cervical mucus thinner to allow sperm to swim faster and fuse the egg.
Moreover, estrogen would help make penetrative sexual activities easier and less painful. The hormone is responsible for keeping the vaginal walls thick and lubricated for smooth intercourse.
Menopause marks no ovulation and menstrual cycle for the rest of the life. You could quickly identify menopause if you didn’t have menstruation for the last 12 months.
Generally, such stoppage occurs when a woman crosses the age of 50. After the body enters menopause, the estrogen form, i.e., estradiol (E2), changes into estrone (E1).
Before menopause, the body enters a perimenopause stage, during which the estrogen level drops. The perimenopause stage may vary depending on the individual.
But, lowering estrogen concentration may result in several changes like vaginal dryness, abrupt mood swings, heavy sweating, and heat flashes.
Generally, women don’t have a consistent or dedicated estrogen level throughout their lifetime.
The hormone level increases or decreases depending upon several events like pregnancy, menstruation, etc.
Moreover, other factors like age could be another reason for fluctuating estrogen levels. But, such changes are considered normal as estrogen levels return to a healthy level after those events.
Sometimes the estrogen level consistently stays low, resulting in several symptoms and other health conditions. The low level could be due to menopause or surgical removal of ovaries.
Low estrogen levels may cause fertility problems, nutritional deficiencies, etc. Moreover, women may observe specific symptoms like:
- Irregular and untimely periods
- Vaginal dryness
- Mood swings and mental disturbances
- Weakening of bones
- Fatigue and insomnia symptoms, etc.
In some conditions, the ovaries start secreting estrogen at a higher rate resulting in increased estrogen concentration in the body.
Higher concentrations may cause several medical conditions like PCOS, endometriosis pain, fibroid, ovarian tumors, etc. Additionally, you may experience specific symptoms of high-level estrogen:
- Low libido
- Irregular periods
- May worsen PMS or PMDD symptoms
- Sudden weight gain, etc.
Clinical Usage Of Estrogen
Estrogen therapy is a hormone replacement therapy solely involving estrogen or estrogen and progestin. The therapy could help manage menopause symptoms and other related problems.
Some of the experienced benefits of estrogen therapy include reducing hot flashes, vaginal dryness, sleep disorders, anxiety, mood swings, etc., and increasing sexual desires.
The treatment may also lower the risk of osteoporosis, which usually occurs after menopause.
A man who wishes to transition to a woman undergoes estrogen treatment or therapy. Sometimes, these cases would require anti-androgenic treatments for better results.
Estrogen treatment involves estrogen influx that would help develop several female secondary characters and reduce male characteristics.
Birth control pills contain hormones like estrogen, progestin, or both. These hormones would help lower the chances of sperm fusing an egg by making specific changes within the female reproductive organ.
Some pills may help by stopping ovulation resulting in no release of eggs. On the other hand, a few pills make the cervical mucus thick to prevent the entry of sperm.
Estrogen is a crucial hormone to maintain overall reproductive health. A woman’s body may find different estrogen concentrations and types throughout their lifetime.
But, the fluctuating levels and type may vary depending on multiple factors.
If you experience consistent low or high estrogen levels, you should immediately consult a doctor and consider undergoing some treatments to reverse the condition.
Working4Health prefers using primary and verified references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and our primary references include peer-reviewed research, academic, and medical institution studies.
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Otella has an experience of around eight years of writing about health and nutrition-related topics. She is a full-time mother and a housewife, and the time she has left after doing her mother and household duties is spent writing for Working for Health as a full-time writer. Her life goal is to raise both her boys into a gentleman, and at the same time, she wants to educate people on how to keep themselves fit by tweaking their daily diet.