The word “hormones” is mentioned frequently when it comes to women’s health. But many people may not know the extent to which hormonal changes and imbalances can affect female health — or the parts of female physiology they can affect.
Hormones are “signaling molecules” that are produced by the glands and transported throughout the body. They regulate the function of organs, the growth and organization of cells, and the development of sexual characteristics.
When people refer to hormones in terms of their relation to female health, they are usually referring to sex hormones. In females, the three sex hormones are estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.
What Do Female Sex Hormones do?
Female sex hormones are responsible for a number of functions in the body. Firstly, they facilitate the development of sexual characteristics. This includes the development of the breasts, an increase of fat deposits in the stomach, hips, and buttocks, and the start of menstruation.
Sex hormones are also responsible for keeping a mother and baby healthy during pregnancy. Progesterone, in particular, helps support a growing baby in utero and send nutrients to it via the placenta. It also helps regulate the mother’s metabolism throughout her pregnancy.
Sex hormones also play an enormous role in a woman’s libido and menstrual cycle, including menstruation, ovulation, and even menopause. The role of these sex hormones is extensive, and hormonal deficiencies can have an enormous effect on many aspects of female health.
Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalance or Insufficiency
Hormone deficiencies can affect everything from weight gain to libido, pregnancy, and more.
Insufficient levels of estrogen and progesterone, in particular, can have a serious effect on your libido. Women with low hormone levels may have very little desire for sex. Sex can also be painful as estrogen plays a part in vaginal lubrication. Low estrogen levels can cause vaginal dryness. Suffering from low libido may also mean women have difficulty reaching orgasm.
Testosterone plays a much larger role in sexual health in men, but it is also present in small amounts in women. Testosterone imbalances can also cause sexual issues, such as low libido. But too much testosterone can also negatively impact female health. Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) have higher-than-average levels of testosterone. This can result in excessive body hair growth, ovarian cysts, weight fluctuations, hair loss, mood swings, libido issues, acne, irregular periods, and infertility.
How Hormonal Imbalances Can Affect Menstrual and Pregnancy Health
Female sex hormones also play a large role in the health of their reproductive system. Low levels of sex hormones can mean irregular periods and suppressed ovulation. This can lead to difficulty conceiving. Many women who have hormonal imbalances have difficulty getting pregnant. However, having a hormonal insufficiency or excess does not necessarily mean you cannot have children. It may mean that you should talk to your doctor about hormonal supplements if you are trying to get pregnant.
Hormonal imbalances can also affect pregnancy for many women. Some research suggests that low levels of progesterone may be related to a risk of miscarriage. If you have low progesterone during your pregnancy, your doctor may suggest a hormonal supplement.
How Hormonal Imbalances Affect Daily Life
Although hormonal imbalances can have significant effects in the long term, they may also cause issues for you on a daily basis. Vaginal dryness, irritability, depression, anxiety, or a low sex drive are all associated with hormonal deficiencies in women. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor. They may be able to run tests to pinpoint the cause of your issues.