Estrogen In Women: Types, Functions, And More

Medically reviewed by Maria Sarino, MD FACT CHECKED

The female ovary produces the hormone known as estrogen. It is responsible for the development of secondary sexual characteristics.

These secondary sexual characterstics include breasts and hips, and for the regulation of the menstrual cycle.

During menopause, the production of estrogen decreases, which can lead to changes in a woman’s body and to a number of menopausal symptoms.

There are a number of ways to relieve menopausal symptoms and protect against the effects of estrogen deficiency.

These include taking hormone replacement therapy, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly.

This article will provide you with everything you need to know about estrogen, including its function, the effects of estrogen deficiency, and how to protect against the latter.

Estrogen levels In Women

Estrogen comes in three main forms that include-

  • Estrone

    Estrone (E1) is a steroid hormone and one of the three major estrogens. It is secreted by the ovaries, placenta, and adrenal glands.

    Estrone levels fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle and are highest during ovulation.

    Estrone plays an important role in female reproductive health.

    It is responsible for the development of secondary sexual characteristics, such as breasts and pubic hair, and for the regulation of the menstrual cycle.

    Estrone levels also affect bone density and cholesterol levels.

  • Estradiol

    Estradiol is a hormone that is produced by the ovaries. It is the most important female sex hormone and plays a vital role in the development and maintenance of female reproductive health.

    Estradiol levels fluctuate throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle, and they play a role in regulating ovulation, fertility, and menstrual cycles.

  • Estriol

    Estriol is a hormone that is produced by the body during pregnancy.

    It is involved in the development of the fetal brain and nervous system, and it also helps to protect the mother from developing certain pregnancy complications.

    Although estriol is considered to be a “weak” estrogen, it is still an important hormone for both mother and child during pregnancy.

Estrogen Functions on Women's Reproductive Health

Estrogen plays a vital role in women’s reproductive health as it is responsible for most of the reproductive and various other processes in the body, like-

  • Puberty

    Estrogen is a hormone that plays a major role in pubertal development. The sexually maturing stage of both sexes indicates the onset of puberty in them.

    During puberty, estrogen levels increase, causing physical changes such as breast development and the onset of menstruation.

    Estrogen also helps to regulate the menstrual cycle, bone development, and pelvis growth.

  • Menstrual Cycle

    Estrogen is a hormone that plays a key role in the menstrual cycle. It is responsible for the development of the uterine lining, which is shed during menstruation.

    Estrogen levels fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle, rising in the first half and falling in the second half.

    This fluctuation is necessary for the normal function of the menstrual cycle.

  • Pregnancy And Fertility

    During pregnancy, estrogen has ama major role in preparing the body for childbirth by stimulating the growth of the uterus and other reproductive organs.

    It also helps to regulate the body’s metabolism and fluid balance. Estrogen levels continue to rise throughout pregnancy, peaking just before childbirth.

    After giving birth, estrogen levels fall sharply, which can lead to a temporary loss of fertility. However, as the levels of estrogen begin to rise again, so does a woman’s fertility.

  • Menopause

    In the years leading up to menopause which is a permanent end of the menstrual cycle for more than a year, the ovaries gradually produce less and less estrogen.

    This hormonal imbalance can cause a variety of menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and mood swings.

Role Of Estrogen In Non-Reproductive Processes

It is well known that estrogen is responsible for the development of female sexual characteristics and the regulation of the menstrual cycle.

However, estrogen also has several other important functions in the body, including maintaining bone density and regulating cholesterol levels.

Estrogen may have a role in protecting the brain from cognitive decline. This includes both Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Estrogen appears to work by inhibiting the formation of beta-amyloid plaques, which are believed to contribute to the dementia process.

Where Does Estrogen Reside In The Body?

Estrogen is primarily produced by the ovaries, it is also present in other tissues, such as the brain, skin, and bones.

In the brain, estrogen helps to regulate mood, sexual desire, and memory. In the skin, it keeps the skin looking young and healthy. And in the bones, it helps to maintain bone density.

What Are Diseases And Disorders Linked To Estrogen?

The following are the common conditions and disorders linked to estrogen-

  • Anorexia Nervosa

    Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that can be linked to low levels of the hormone estrogen.

    This is because estrogen plays a role in regulating hunger and satiety signals in the brain. When estrogen levels are low, these signals can become confused, which can lead to anorexia nervosa.

  • Breast Cancer

    There is a connection between estrogen and breast cancer. Estrogen is a hormone that is produced by the ovaries and plays a vital role in the development of the female body.

    However, too much estrogen can be harmful and can increase the risk of breast cancer.

  • Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD)

    Female sexual dysfunction (FSD) is a medical condition that affects a woman’s sexual health and the condition is worse in case of depression or other mental health issues.

    It can be caused by a variety of factors, including hormone imbalances, certain medical conditions, and medications.

    FSD can also be the result of psychological factors such as stress, anxiety, and depression.

    Low levels of estrogen can lead to a number of sexual problems, such as vaginal dryness, decreased libido, and difficulty achieving orgasm.

    In some cases, FSD can be treated with medication that increases estrogen levels.

  • Fibrocystic Breasts

    Fibrocystic breasts are a common condition that affects around half of all women at some point in their lives.

    The condition is characterized by the formation of benign (non-cancerous) lumps or cysts in the breasts.

    These lumps are often painful and can make the breasts feel lumpy or overly sensitive.

    Fibrocystic breasts are thought to be caused by an imbalance in the levels of estrogen in the body.

    When estrogen levels are too high, it can lead to the formation of cysts in the breasts.

  • Infertility

    Infertility is a problem that affects many women of childbearing age. There are a variety of factors that can contribute to infertility, and one of them is an imbalance of the hormone estrogen.

    Estrogen is necessary for ovulation and pregnancy, but too much or too little of it can lead to problems.

    An excess of estrogen can cause the lining of the uterus to thicken, making it difficult for a fertilized egg to implant. A deficiency of estrogen can prevent ovulation from occurring.

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

    Women of childbearing age are susceptible to the hormonal disease known as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

    The main symptom of PCOS is irregular menstruation, but it can also cause a number of other problems, including infertility, acne, and excess hair growth.

    PCOS is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, and it is believed to be the most common hormonal disorder among women of childbearing age.

    One of the key hormones involved in PCOS is estrogen. In women with PCOS, the ovaries produce high levels of estrogen, which can lead to the development of cysts on the ovaries.

    High levels of estrogen can also cause irregular menstrual cycles, excess hair growth, and weight gain.

  • Turner Syndrome

    Turner syndrome is a disorder that affects girls and women. It results from the partial or complete lack of the second sex chromosome.

    This results in the disruption of the normal development of the ovaries and the reproductive organs.

    Turner syndrome is associated with a number of physical abnormalities, including short stature, webbed necks, and low-set ears.

    Many girls and women with Turner syndrome also have a condition called hypogonadism, which means they do not produce enough of the hormone estrogen.

  • Vaginal Atrophy

    Vaginal atrophy is a common condition that can occur when levels of the hormone estrogen drop. Estrogen is important for maintaining healthy vaginal tissue.

    When levels of this hormone decrease, the vaginal tissues can become thinner, drier, and less elastic. This can cause discomfort, pain, and even bleeding during sex.

  • Primary Ovarian Insufficiency

    Primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) is a medical disorder in which a woman’s ovaries stop functioning properly before she reaches the age of 40.

    Lower-than-normal levels of estrogen can cause Primary ovarian insufficiency which is commonly called premature ovarian failure.

  • Uterine Cancer

    One of the most standard cancers in women is uterine cancer. Though there are many risk factors for uterine cancer, one of the most significant is estrogen.

    Estrogen plays a role in the development and growth of the uterine lining.

    When the balance of estrogen in the body is disrupted, it can lead to the overgrowth of the uterine lining, which can in turn lead to cancer.

  • Osteoporosis

    Osteoporosis is an ailment characterized by fragile bones and an increased risk of fractures.

    Estrogen helps to keep bones strong and healthy, and when levels of estrogen decline, osteoporosis can develop.

  • Uterine Fibroids And Polyps

    The uterus can develop benign (non-cancerous) growths called uterine fibroids. They are made up of smooth muscle cells and connective tissue.

    Uterine fibroids are very common, and they typically occur during a woman’s childbearing years.

    Polyps are growths that occur on the inner lining of the uterus. Like fibroids, they are made up of smooth muscle cells and connective tissue.

    However, polyps are usually smaller than fibroids. Their growth is associated with various other factors like hypertension, cervical polyps, etc.

  • Obesity

    Obesity is a complex condition with many causes. One important factor that contributes to obesity is the hormone estrogen.

    Too much estrogen can lead to obesity. This is because estrogen promotes the growth of fat cells. In addition, estrogen makes it more difficult for the body to break down and use fat for energy.

    Hormones and weight loss could be closely related in most cases. As a result, our body needs to maintain the exact levels of hormones.

    Even a slight variation could lead to excess weight gain or weight loss.

How Can I Keep My Estrogen Levels Balanced?

Maintain healthy estrogen levels with these tips-

  • Consume a diet high in fruits and vegetables to stay healthy
  • Exercise regularly
  • Get enough sleep
  • Avoid using tobacco products
  • Limit your alcohol intake
  • Manage stress levels
  • Speak to your doctor about taking supplements and other measures

Final Remark

In conclusion, estrogen is a vital hormone in women. It plays a role in regulating the menstrual cycle, bone health, and mood.

Estrogen levels can fluctuate due to a variety of factors, including age, stress, and diet.

Women can support healthy estrogen levels by eating a balanced diet, managing stress, and getting regular exercise.

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