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Progesterone: The Other Female Hormone!

Pic created @ www.canva.com

Progesterone: the other main hormone responsible for fertility and menstruation. Progesterone is a steroid hormone belonging to a class of hormones called progestogens.

It is secreted by the corpus luteum, a temporary endocrine gland that the female body produces after ovulation during the second half of the menstrual cycle.

Synthetic steroid hormones with progesterone-like properties are called progestins. 

What Does Progesterone Do?

Progesterone hormone prepares the uterus lining for the potential of pregnancy after ovulation. It triggers the lining to thicken to accept a fertilized egg.

It also prohibits the muscle contractions in the uterus that would cause the body to reject an egg. While the body is producing high levels of progesterone, the body will not ovulate.

If the woman does not become pregnant, the corpus luteum breaks down, lowering the progesterone levels in the body. This change sparks menstruation.

If the body does conceive, progesterone continues to stimulate the body to provide the blood vessels in the endometrium that will feed the growing fetus. The hormone also prepares the lining of the uterus further so it can accept the fertilized egg.

Once the placenta develops, it also begins to secrete progesterone, supporting the corpus luteum. This causes the levels to remain elevated throughout the pregnancy, so the body does not produce more eggs. It also helps prepare the breasts for milk production.

Progestin What Can It Do?

Progestin (a synthetic version of the progesterone hormones) can also be used to treat menopause symptoms such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness.

Estrogen is often combined with progestin and together they serve to inhibit the maturation of the egg follicle more effectively — as well as discourage ovulation. So they are used as contraception (prevent pregnancy).

For women who are peri-menopausal or newly menopausal, healthcare providers may suggest an oral micronized progesterone treatment.

Progestin can also be prescribed to treat amenorrhea (absence of your menstrual cycle), endometriosis (growth of uterine-like tissue outside of the uterus), and irregular periods. (A little interesting side note).

Progesterone Levels

Progesterone levels are measured by blood tests. Please keep in mind that the levels fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle, so the levels will vary.

Progesterone levels are measured in nanograms per millilitre (ng/mL). Please see the below chart for reference levels of progesterone for an adult female during different points of the menstrual cycle and pregnancy.

StageProgesterone level (ng/mL)
pre-ovulation< 0.89
ovulation≤ 12
post-ovulation1.8–24
first trimester11–44
second trimester25–83
third trimester58–214
Chart from Healthline.com

Progesterone & Men

Progesterone is also produced in the adrenal glands of males. The known function is associated with sperm development.

High Progesterone

High progesterone in a non-pregnant female could be a sign of a diagnosed health issue. This could include:

  • ovarian cysts
  • congenital adrenal hyperplasia (an inherited condition with your adrenal glands)
  • ovarian cancer
  • adrenal cancer

Low Progesterone

Low levels of progesterone will cause a woman to have abnormal menstrual cycles and she may struggle to conceive as low levels of progesterone will not trigger the proper environment for a conceived egg to grow.

Symptoms of low progesterone are:

  • Abnormal uterine bleeding
  • Irregular or missed periods
  • Spotting and abdominal pain during pregnancy
  • Frequent miscarriages
  • Problems with fertility
  • Decreased libido
  • Weight Gain

Women whose levels are low do succeed in getting pregnant are at higher risk for miscarriage or preterm delivery, due to a lack in the amount of hormone requires to maintain a pregnancy.

If you take progestin to treat menopausal symptoms, for birth control, or to treat other conditions side effects may occur. Some of these side effects are dosage dependent, and how your body processes the synthetic hormone.

Progestin for menopause

Side effects may include;

  1. Mood changes
  2. Bloating
  3. Headaches
  4. Breast tenderness
  5. For newly menopausal women, breakthrough bleeding.

To feel at our optimum, the delicate hormone homeostasis must be achieved as hormones are the brains behind all the processes of the body.

If you have any medical concerns, please be sure to discuss this with your care provider.

You can click this link to read about estrogen, https://justpene.com/estrogen-the-mostly-female-hormone/

And black cohosh and its role in a woman’s life at; https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/justpene.com/2782

Rites of passage, a menopause story at; https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/justpene.com/795

Sources Cited:

Mayo clinic

http://online.lexi.com/lco/action/home

https://www.healthline.com/

https://www.hormone.org/diseases-and-conditions/puberty

Hormone Health Network.”Progesterone | Endocrine Society.” Hormone.org, Endocrine Society, 10 February 2020, https://www.hormone.org/your-health-and-hormones/glands-and-hormones-a-to-z/hormones/Progesterone

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Estrogen: The Mostly Female Hormone

Estrogen
Photo by Daria Shevtsova

Estrogens are a group of hormones.

Their main job is to develop and maintain the female characteristics in the body. Estrogen is one of two main sex hormones that women have.

The other main hormone is progesterone. Estrogen is responsible for female physical features and reproduction. Men have estrogen, too, but in smaller amounts.

Why Is Estrogen Important?

Estrogen helps bring about the physical changes that turn a girl into a woman. This time of life is called puberty. These changes include:

  • Growth of the breasts
  • Growth of pubic and underarm hair
  • Start of menstrual cycles

Estrogen helps control the menstrual cycle and is important for childbearing. This hormone also has other functions:  

  • Keeps cholesterol in control.
  • Protects bone health for both women and men.
  • Affects your brain (including mood), bones, heart, skin, and other tissues.

Estrogen also plays a key role in the menstrual cycle, it is instrumental in its’ commencement and cessation.

Your ovaries, which produce a all the eggs a female is born with, are the main production sources of estrogen from your body.

Your adrenal glands, (located at the top of each kidney), make small amounts of this hormone, some estrogen is also produced by fatty tissues.

Estrogen moves through your blood and acts everywhere in your body.

How Does Estrogen Work?

Your ovaries, which produce a all the eggs a female is born with, are the main production sources of estrogen from your body.

Your adrenal glands, (located at the top of each kidney), make small amounts of this hormone, some estrogen is also produced by fatty tissues.

Estrogen moves through your blood and acts everywhere in your body.

Estrogen & Your Menstrual Cycle

Your estrogen levels varies throughout each month. They are highest in the middle of your menstrual cycle and lowest during your period. Estrogen levels drop at menopause.

How do you know what your estrogen level is? You will need to have a blood or a urine test done.

Fluctuating Estrogen Levels

As a result of varying reasons, your body can produce too little or too much estrogen.

Your body makes three main types of estrogen:

Estradiol (E2): the most common type in women of childbearing age

Estriol (E3): the main estrogen during pregnancy

Estrone (E1): the only estrogen your body makes after menopause (when menstrual periods stop)

Low Levels of Estrogen

Women. The most common reason for low estrogen in women is menopause or surgical removal of the ovaries. Some symptoms of low estrogen levels are:

  • Menstrual periods that are less frequent or that stop
  • Hot flashes (suddenly feeling very warm) and/or night sweats
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Dryness and thinning of the vagina
  • Low sexual desire
  • Mood swings
  • Dry skin

Some women get menstrual migraine, a bad headache right before their menstrual period, because of the drop in estrogen.

Low estrogen in men can cause excess belly fat and low sexual desire.

High Levels of Estrogen 

Women. Excess estrogen can lead to these problems, among others:

  • Weight gain, mainly in your waist, hips, and thighs
  • Menstrual problems, such as light or heavy bleeding
  • Worsening of premenstrual syndrome
  • Fibrocystic breasts (non-cancerous breast lumps)
  • Fibroids (noncancerous tumors) in the uterus
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Feeling depressed or anxious

Men: High Estrogen in Men Can Cause:

Estrogen & Men

Males also possess estrogen receptors and it has been noted that estrogen levels in the male blood are higher than post-menopausal women.

Estradiol has been found to be responsible for initiating spermatogenesis (genesis -beginning of sperm) and maturation of sperms in men. It helps with bone strength, sexual maturation and the metabolism of cholesterol in both men and women.

Menopause: Your New Normal

During menopause, women experience lower levels of the hormone estrogen. One of the effects of lowered estrogen levels is a decrease in blood supply to the vagina, which causes vaginal dryness. This can result in painful or uncomfortable intercourse.

Another effect of hormonal changes is a change in libido, or sex drive. This may improve or worsen, but it is important to remember that other factors besides menopause can affect libido.

Finally, although fertility ends at menopause, women of all ages are still susceptible to STDs (sexually transmitted diseases).

Low Estrogen, Hot Flashes & Menopause!!

The exact cause of hot flashes is unknown, but they are most likely linked to the hormonal and biochemical changes brought on by decreasing estrogen levels.

Hot flashes, to me at least, begins as a “fire” in the solar plexus and rises to the surface, i.e. the upper torso and face. They can last anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes, and they may commence before you know you are perimenopausal and often even before you have begin to have menstrual irregularities.

By the time the hot flash reaches its’ climax, you are sweating profusely … and I mean  pro-fus-ely.

Hot flashes may last up to 10 years, but 80% of women will not have any hot flashes after five years, I pray I am one of those women!! Ughh!

If you are of the lighter skinned persuasion you will be repeatedly asked, “are you ok?”

Women can help reduce the symptoms of hot flashes by dressing in light layers, exercising regularly, using a fan, managing stress, and avoiding spicy foods, (none of these helped me).

Ways Treat Vaginal Dryness

One of the ways we can treat vaginal dryness and painful intercourse is;

  1. Water-soluble lubricants can help overcome this problem. If lubricants are not effective, contact your doctor.
  2. Vaginal creams and suppositories can be prescribed to ease vaginal dryness.
  3. Stress, sleep disturbances, medications, and anxiety can all affect sex drive. Your doctor can help you find ways to manage the changes in your sex drive if they occur.
  4. STD’s (sexually transmitted diseases) are no laughing matter — exercise caution and practice safe sex.

Herbal Supplements to Ease Menopause Symptoms

  • Phytoestrogens
  • Black cohosh
  • Dong quai
  • Evening primrose oil
  • Ginseng
  • Kava
  • Red clover
  • Vitamin E
  • Wild yam

If you decide to try these remedies, or other herbal products, be sure to discuss this with your doctor. Some botanical or herbal supplements can interact with prescription drugs.

Sources Cited:

Mayo clinic

http://online.lexi.com/lco/action/home

https://www.hormone.org/diseases-and-conditions/puberty

Hormone Health Network.”Estrogen | Endocrine Society.” Hormone.org, Endocrine Society, 10 February 2020, https://www.hormone.org/your-health-and-hormones/glands-and-hormones-a-to-z/hormones/estrogen