Hormones are the chemical messengers that regulate or change the functions of organs and structures throughout your body. Hormones are created in small organs, called glands and move throughout the body, usually through the bloodstream. The release of hormones is one ways that different parts of the body communicate with one another. While hormones are present in both males and females, the main ones we will focus on in this blog are estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone as it relates to female development. These hormones are created by the ovaries, two almond-shaped sex glands that are in the pelvis. Your ovaries also produce a woman’s eggs.
During fetal development, the sex glands are relatively active. By the time, you are born, every egg is fully formed and stowed away in the ovaries. During infancy and childhood, or the Maiden Phase, they slow down production. Then, when puberty hits, the sex glands kick back into high gear. At this time, they begin to produce adult sexual development and urges. Mood swings area also associated with puberty. After this period, most women settle into a regular ovulation pattern.
As mentioned before, the ovaries make both estrogen and progesterone, along with other hormones in a cyclic fashion (ie. Why it is called the monthly cycle). The levels of these hormones rise and fall with ovulation. This takes between 21 to 35 days, and ends with a two to seven-day period of menstruation. This is called the Mother Phase, since this is when your hormones have balanced out and your eggs have had time to mature. This process will continue for 30 to 40+ years of your life. It is important to remember that your cycle can be interrupted now and then, of course by pregnancy but also by stressful events.
Estrogen is the primary female hormone, building up the uterine lining, stimulating breast tissue and thickening the vaginal wall. It also effects almost every organ in the body. It plays a critical role in bone building and is thought to have very important effects on the cardiovascular system.
Progesterone, is also a very important hormone, especially when it comes to pregnancy. It is produced only during the second half of the menstrual cycle and prepares the uterine lining for an egg to implant. Progesterone also has other effects on any of the tissues that are sensitive to estrogen.
Testosterone, is also produced by the ovaries and plays a role in generating energy, developing muscle mass and stimulating sexual desire.
The balance of these hormones in your body at any given time is affected by many factors. The pituitary gland, a gland found at the base of your brain, and your ovaries are constantly communicating via their respective hormones, dictating the changing hormone levels of your monthly cycle and the production of eggs. The pituitary gland produces a follicle-stimulating hormone among other hormones. Medications, stress, body weight (over or under), time of day and even time of the moth can all cause temporary changes in your hormone.
Once we reach the Matriarch Phase of life, permanent changes to the hormone levels and hormone balance occur. The ovaries will slowly begin to stop releasing eggs, which at this point may no longer be viable. When this happens they also quit producing their hormones. This will usually happen over a period of time, beginning anywhere from the late 30’s to the 40’s and even early 50’s in some women. Progesterone is the first hormone to slow down production, this can lead to heavier and more frequent periods. This is known as “perimenopause”.
After that the estrogen production begins to taper off, this is what leads to the common discomforts and health concerns that are associated with menopause. Fluctuating and falling estrogen levels disrupt your internal thermostat, causing hot flashes or vasomotor instability. Your sleep cycles and some muscle tone are affected by the drastic reduction in estrogen, most notably muscle tone in the pelvic area. Therefore it’s so vital to keep up those Kegel exercises.
This has been just a quick description of the female hormones and how they work. Tomorrow I will put up a blog on How to Tell When Your Hormones are Outta Whack.