Estrogen is the primary sex hormone of females. It includes estriol, estradiol, and estrone. Sex hormone is secreted in short intervals which may vary from hour to hour and even minute to minute. Estriol is made from the placenta and is secreted during pregnancy. The release of hormone varies between night and day and from one stage of menstrual cycle to another.
Estradiol is formed from developing ovarian follicle and is the principal hormone of child bearing women. Estradiol contributes female’s characteristics and sexual functioning. It is responsible for bone structure and functioning and several other gynaecological problems including endometriosis and fibroids and even female cancers. Estrone is present throughout the body. It is the main hormone present in the female body after menopause. Though produced both in men and women, it is mostly called female hormone, because it influences most of female metabolism. Estrogen is mostly produced in ovaries, adrenal gland and fat tissues. Estrogen is mainly responsible for sexual development and pregnancy in women.
Functions of estrogen
- Estrogen helps the onset of puberty in ladies. It leads to the building of more mature curved figure, and fuller hips in ladies. It helps in the development of secondary sexual characteristics in females, such as breast development, pubic hair, armpit hair and growth and maturation of genital organs. Maintains vaginal blood flow and lubrication. Keeps vaginal lining elastic.
- Estrogen regulates menstrual cycle in females. It helps in the growth and thickening of uterine lining before ovulatory phase. If egg is not fertilized estrogen level decreases rapidly and menstruation begins. Menstrual cycle in females is mainly controlled by estrogen and progesterone.
- After fertilization both estrogen and progesterone prevents further ovulation during pregnancy. During pregnancy estrogen helps in the thickening of endometrium walls and regulates entire foetal development procedure up to delivery. Estrogen thickens cervical mucus to prevent sperm entry and fertilizing it.
- Estrogen regulates changes in, breast during adolescence and pregnancy. It also controls lactation process after delivery.
- Oral contraceptives containing estrogen also gives relief from menstrual cramps, and perimenopausal symptoms. It regulates menstrual cycle in females having polycystic ovarian syndrome.
- Birth control pills reduce the risk of ovarian, uterine and colorectal cancer.
Other role of estrogen:
Estrogen helps to prevent boneless. It along with calcium, vitaminD and other hormones helps for growth and development of bones. But, after menopause estrogen level declines, so breakdown processes of bones occur rapidly than rebuilding. So, after menopause osteoporosis is mostly found in women. After menopause women loses 20% of their bone mass.
- Urinary bladder:
There occurs thinning of urethra; many women may experience urinary tract infection as estrogen level rapidly declines.
Normal estrogen levels in women
Level of estrogen varies depending on person’s age. Ladies between age group 20-29 the average is 149 pg/ml.Females under age group 30-39 its level increases to210pg/ml.At the age of 40, for women who are not yet under the stage of menopause its level decreases to 152pg/ml.The exact level varies on a daily basis and closely related to the stages of menstrual cycle.
Changes in estrogen levels:
Estrogen level falls at menopause. Women may experience weight gain; there may be irregular menstruation, hot flashes and vaginal dryness, night sweats, loss of libido or sex drive. Some ladies may experience moodiness, risk of heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis and fracture. Hypogonadism and polycystic ovarian syndrome also leads to drop in estrogen level. Extreme exercise and anorexia also leads to fall in estrogen level, because women with low body fat are not able to produce adequate amount of estrogen. There is also a tremendous decrease in estrogen level which is seen after child birth. There occurs a rapid increase in estrogen during puberty and pregnancy.
Low estrogen levels in women
Severe fall in estrogen level as low as 10-12 pg/ml may cause due to,
- Pregnancy failure
- Perimenopause and menopause.
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Anorexia nervosa
- Heavy exercise or training
- Medicine that may decrease level of estrogen includes clomophene. Low level of estrogen is also experienced immediately after child birth and during breast feeding.
High estrogen levels
High estrogen level occurs when estrogen is in excess i.e. 200 pg/ml. It happens due to
- Women who are overweight, experiences high level of estrogen. High blood pressure or diabetic women also experiences rise in level of estrogen. Stress, cardiovascular disease, excess alcohol intake. Tumours of testis, ovaries or adrenal gland may also lead to an increase in estrogen level.
- Certain drugs such as steroid medications, ampicillin, and estrogen containing drugs, phenothiazines, and tetracyclines can lead to an increase in the level of estrogen.
Filed in: Women's Health