Estrogens are a group of hormones which are important for sexual health and reproductive development, mainly in women. However, they also play a role in men’s sexual health.
They are also referred to as female sex hormone. The major estrogen hormones are Estradiol, Estrone and Estriol and they decline with age.
In women, all the estrogen hormones (i.e. all hormones belonging to this group) are produced mainly in the ovaries. In addition to ovaries, they are also manufactured by fat cells and adrenal glands.
The adrenal glands are responsible for production of many vital hormones in the body. In pregnant women, the placenta (the temporary organ that serves to nourish the fetus and remove its wastes) also produces estrogen. The main functions of estrogen are:
- Onset of puberty i.e. the process of physical changes by which a child’s body matures into an adult body, capable of sexual reproduction.
- Development of secondary sexual characteristics in women such as breasts, pubic hair and armpit hair.
- Responsible for occurrence and regulation of menstrual cycle (periods) in non-pregnant women.
- Responsible for stopping of periods during pregnancy in pregnant women.
- Control of lactation and other changes in the breasts during adolescence and pregnancy.
- Helpful in bone formation. Estrogen works in combination with calcium and Vitamin D to effectively break down and rebuild bones according to the body’s natural processes and dietary intake.With decrease in estrogen levels (which happens when women reach menopause), rebuilding of bones becomes slower which causes more bone loss than bone formation. This is the reason why postmenopausal women are 4 times more likely to suffer from osteoporosis (disease characterized by weak and easily breakable bones) than men and pre-menopausal women.
- Reduction in estrogen levels may cause hot flashes, vaginal dryness and loss of sex drive.
- Estrogen also plays a role in blood clotting and maintains the strength and thickness of vaginal wall and vaginal lubrication.
- This hormone is also known to affect the brain. Very low levels of estrogen can cause mood swings.
These are the reasons why adequate estrogen levels are so important in post-menopausal women. Most scientific studies using estrogen supplements also focus on postmenopausal women for this reason.