Did you know males and females share the same hormones? However, the amount of the same hormone produced in males is significantly different than the amount of same hormone produced in females? Females (women) and males (men) are uniquely different. This article highlights the hormones in females.
Hormones help regulate our body’s metabolism, growth and development, reproduction, sleep-wake cycles, and stress response. Hormones act as chemical messengers that communicate information between our organs and tissues to ensure proper functioning and coordination of their activities.
To maintain overall health and well-being, we need our hormones to perform optimally and in harmony with each other and our organs and tissues.
The primary hormones necessary for women are:
- Estrogen is responsible for the development of breast and the growth of pubic hair and regulating the menstrual cycle, which is the monthly process where the uterus prepares for a possible pregnancy. It also contributes to maintaining bone density. Estrogen affects mood, cognition, and skin health.
- Progesterone works with estrogen to regulate the menstrual cycle and prepare the uterus for pregnancy. It helps thicken the uterine lining to make a suitable environment for a fertilized egg to develop. It is also involved in maintaining pregnancy.
- Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) is produced by the pituitary gland and helps stimulate the growth and maturation of ovarian follicles, which contain the eggs. It plays a crucial role in the menstrual cycle and fertility.
- Luteinizing hormone (LH) is also produced by the pituitary gland and works alongside FSH. It triggers ovulation, the release of a mature egg from the ovary.
- Prolactin is primarily known for its role in stimulating milk production in breastfeeding women. It also plays a role in regulating the menstrual cycle and maintaining reproductive function.
- Thyroid hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), are regulate metabolism, energy levels, and body temperature.
- Testosterone plays a role in maintaining muscle mass and bone density, promoting sexual desire, and influencing mood and energy levels. It also supports the production of red blood cells and regulates certain aspects of the menstrual cycle.
Female hormones are crucial for reproductive health and overall well-being. Throughout a woman’s life, hormone levels fluctuate. Hormonal changes can cause various symptoms and changes in a woman’s body. Hormonal changes typically begin during the perimenopause phase of a woman’s life and in the 40s.
Perimenopause eventually leads to menopause, which is defined as 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period. Menopause typically occurs in women around their late 40s to early 50s and marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years.
Both perimenopause and menopause may include a time of irregular periods (they may be longer, shorter, heavier, or lighter than usual), hot flashes (sudden feelings of intense heat and sweating), night sweats, mood swings, vaginal dryness, decreased sex drive, fatigue, sleep disturbances, changes in skin and hair, and emotional changes.
Hormonal changes can increase the risk of certain health conditions. These risks are primarily associated with the decline in estrogen levels, which has various effects on the body.
Following are some common health risks that may be associated with menopause:
- Osteoporosis: Estrogen plays a crucial role in maintaining bone density. As estrogen levels decrease during menopause, women become more susceptible to osteoporosis, a condition characterized by weak and brittle bones. This increases the risk of fractures and bone-related injuries.
- Heart disease: Estrogen helps protect the heart and blood vessels, so its decline during menopause may contribute to an increased risk of heart disease. Menopausal women may experience changes in cholesterol levels, increased blood pressure, and a higher chance of developing cardiovascular problems.
- Weight changes: Many women notice weight changes during menopause. Hormonal changes, along with a decrease in muscle mass and a slower metabolism, can contribute to this weight changes. Weight changes can further increase the risk of other health conditions like diabetes and joint problems.
- Mood disorders: Menopause can bring about emotional and psychological changes. Some women may experience mood swings, irritability, anxiety, or even depression during this transition. Hormonal fluctuations, coupled with other life factors, can contribute to these mood disorders.
- Urinary incontinence: The decline in estrogen can weaken the pelvic floor muscles and lead to urinary incontinence or leakage. This can cause inconvenience and affect a woman’s quality of life.
- Sexual health changes: Vaginal dryness and decreased libido are common symptoms during menopause due to hormonal changes. These changes can impact a woman’s sexual health and may cause discomfort or a decline in sexual desire.
While menopause is a natural part of aging, the symptoms associated with it can be managed and treated with lifestyle adjustments, hormone replacement therapy, or other medications.
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) refers to the use of hormones that are chemically identical to the hormones naturally produced by the human body. These hormones are derived from plant sources and are designed to closely match the structure of natural hormones.
Common BHRT options include:
- Bioidentical estrogen can be prescribed as oral tablets, transdermal patches, gels, creams, pellets, or sprays. It is available in various forms, including estradiol, estriol, and estrone. Bioidentical estrogen is typically used to alleviate menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness.
- Bioidentical progesterone is often used in combination with bioidentical estrogen in women with an intact uterus to protect against endometrial cancer. It can be prescribed as oral capsules, topical creams, pellets, or vaginal suppositories. Bioidentical progesterone is also used to manage symptoms such as sleep disturbances and mood changes.
- Bioidentical testosterone sometimes used in women to address symptoms related to low testosterone levels, such as low libido, fatigue, and decreased muscle mass. Bioidentical testosterone can be prescribed as transdermal patches, gels, pellets, or injections.
- DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone) is a precursor hormone that can be converted to other hormones, including estrogen and testosterone. Bioidentical DHEA supplements are sometimes used in BHRT to help optimize hormone levels and support overall hormone balance.
Many consider hormone replacement therapy important because it provides relief of menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, vaginal dryness, and sleep disturbances. Replacing the declining levels of hormones may restore hormonal balance and improve quality of life for many women by preventing osteoporosis, maintaining cognitive function, and improving energy levels, mood, sexual function, and overall well-being.
While hormone replacement therapy can be beneficial, it is not without risks or side effects. It is crucial to discuss the potential benefits and risks with a qualified healthcare professional who can assess individual health factors and determine the most appropriate treatment approach. Regular monitoring and adjustments to the treatment plan may also be necessary. Get a blood hormone panel assessing the levels of your hormones to provide helpful insight of how your hormones are processing.
Hormones play an important part in optimal functioning of our daily life and influence our daily life experiences. I encourage you to speak to your health provider to gain better insight regarding your hormones and how they impact your daily life experiences.
As seen in At Home Memphis and Midsouth July 2023: https://issuu.com/athometennessee/docs/july_2023/