Most of us had an anatomy or wellness class at some point in school. Yet, as time passes, you might have forgotten some of those lessons. Have you ever asked yourself questions like: What are female hormones? What is their function? What hormones do I have in my body? If so, this post is for you. Below, we talk through female hormone basics and what you need to know.
Before we go on, there is no shame in not knowing the complexities of hormones or your body’s function. Instead, we’re here to help educate you so you can make informed decisions about your healthcare. Keep reading to learn about hormones, hormonal changes, and when something might be wrong.
What are Hormones?
Hormones are the body’s chemical messengers. These messengers tell your body what, how, and when to function. Hormones are produced by the endocrine system and travel throughout the body to tissue and organs in the bloodstream. They can affect a range of body functions, including growth, sexual function, mood, metabolism, and reproduction.
What are the Three Primary Female Hormones?
The female body has three main hormones. These are estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. The basic female hormones help the body function properly. They also regulate functions like menstruation, menopause, reproduction, and more.
- Estrogen is produced by the ovaries, adrenal glands, and fat cells. It controls many of the female hormonal functions. This includes menstruation, pregnancy, menopause, and more.
- Progesterone is produced by the ovaries after ovulation. This hormone helps support early pregnancy and helps prepare the reproductive system for pregnancy. For example, progesterone helps prepare the uterus for fertilization.
- Testosterone is found in small amounts in the female body. It is primarily a male hormone. Yet the small amounts found in females are an important regulator of fertility, sexual desire, and bone strength.
What are Normal Hormone Changes?
Your hormones naturally fluctuate throughout your life. A board-certified gynecologist can help you navigate these changes no matter your age or phase in life. These changes are important in growth and development and foundational to your aging. You’re probably already familiar with the major changes, such as puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause.
Puberty usually begins around ages 8-14. During this time, the body stimulates estrogen and progesterone production. This results in menstruation, breast development, hair growth, anatomy changes, and oil production.
Menstruation can happen anytime during puberty, though it usually begins around age 12. A menstruation cycle is made up of three phases. Hormonal birth control methods disrupt this process by inhibiting ovulation.
- Follicular Phase. Follicle growth begins in the ovaries, and estrogen and progesterone levels decrease.
- Ovulatory Phase. Eggs release from the ovaries, and estrogen and progesterone levels increase.
- Luteal Phase. Eggs move from the ovaries to the uterus and progesterone levels remain higher. If an egg is not fertilized, estrogen and progesterone levels decrease. This begins the menstrual cycle.
Pregnancy is when a fertilized egg is implanted on the wall of the uterus. Remember, this happens during the luteal phase of menstruation we talked about above. In the early stages of pregnancy, the body produces pregnancy hormones, and progesterone levels rise. After the end of a pregnancy, hormones slowly return to normal over time. After pregnancy, some experience low estrogen levels during breastfeeding, which can suppress ovulation for a time.
Menopause is a hormonal change characterized by a lack of menstruation. Typically, the onset of perimenopause – or the time your body begins the transition to menopause – is around the mid to late 40s, though some women experience it sooner. Perimenopause includes the “typical” symptoms you may know about menopause. This includes hot flashes, mood changes, vaginal dryness, trouble sleeping, and irregular periods. This phase usually lasts a few years. Then, menopause generally begins around age 51. During menopause, estrogen and progesterone levels are produced at a lower level. This can cause age-related hormone symptoms such as vaginal dryness, low sexual desire, and bone density loss.
What are the Symptoms of a Hormonal Imbalance?
While hormonal changes throughout life, sometimes hormones can become imbalanced unexpectedly. If you experience any of the following symptoms, you may have imbalanced hormones. You should talk to your gynecologist to understand your symptoms. Sometimes, symptoms and imbalance may be the sign of another condition. These can include PCOS, tumors, ovarian cancer, or obesity. It’s always best to talk to your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms.
- Irregular periods
- Adult acne
- Excess hair growth
- Painful intercourse
- Vaginal dryness
- Low sexual desire
- Feeling tired during the day
- Unexplained weight gain
- Obesity or diabetes
- Difficulty getting pregnant
What You Need to Know About Female Hormones
No two people are exactly alike. There are three active hormones in the female body, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. These three main hormones may function differently for each person. But all three do work together to ensure the body works properly. Menstruation, reproduction, pregnancy, and menopause are all controlled by hormones. Each is an important aspect of female health. But it’s more than just pregnancy and periods. Imbalances can cause a host of symptoms or be a sign of something more worrisome. Always talk with your doctor if you’re experiencing unexplained symptoms.
At HaneyGYN, we take the time to truly get to know you and understand your unique needs. Dr. Haney has extensive experience treating patients at all stages of life. From menstruation to menopause and everything between, we can help guide you on a path to good health. Learn more about our practice by contacting us today.
HaneyGYN is a female-led, private gynecology practice led by Dr. Katherine Haney. Dr. Haney’s goal is to guide women in good health care through any stage of life. To learn more about our practice, please contact us today.