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The two main hormones in a woman’s body are estrogen and progesterone which act in tandem to maintain the normal reproductive cycle. Any alteration in the level of either of the hormones can disrupt this cycle and give rise to a multitude of problems.

Female Hormones are Responsible for the maintenance of the Reproductive Cycle

There are several hormones produced inside the body of women which together are responsible for the development of the feminine features and the maintenance of the reproductive cycle. These hormones come to play when a girl attains puberty. Around that time, hypothalamus, a region in the brain starts releasing gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH).
 

The levels of these two hormones may change from cycle to cycle depending upon levels of stress, nutrition, exercise and presence or absence of ovulation. In case of absence of ovulation, there is no production of progesterone and its levels in the body begin to fall. On the contrary, the levels of estrogen begin to rise. This imbalance is one of the most important causes of producing the symptoms related to hormonal imbalance.

Apart from failure of ovulation, other common causes behind hormonal imbalance in women include the following:

Oral contraceptive pills

Introduced in the 1960s, most of these oral contraceptive preparations are steroidal in nature and contain hormones. They may either be a containing a combination of estrogen and progesterone or may contain progesterone alone. In either case, they change the natural equilibrium of the hormones in the body and may produce symptoms of hormonal imbalance.

Hormone replacement therapy

Commonly used to get rid of the peri-menopausal symptoms, hormonal replacement therapy again consists of either a combination of estrogens and progesterone or may have estrogen alone. Supplementation of these hormones may cause hormonal imbalance in the body.

These days, cattle are fed food enriched with synthetic estrogens to fatten them up and to increase the milk production. Consumption of this contaminated milk or meat can give rise to symptoms of hormonal imbalance in women.

Besides these factors, too much of anxiety and exposure to environmental pollutants like plastics, etc. can also give rise to hormonal imbalance.

Symptoms produced by Hormonal Imbalance in Women

Some of the common symptoms produced by hormonal imbalance in women include:

  • Irregular menstruation: This is commonly observed in girls during menarche and in women approaching menopause, because of disruption of the normal hormonal cycle.
  • Amenorrhea: It is the absence of the menstrual periods. When menstruation fails to start by 16 years of age, it is termed as primary amenorrhea. This is because the hormonal levels are way too less to initiate or maintain the menstrual cycle. Secondary amenorrhea is the loss of the normal menstrual cycles in women who earlier had regular cycles. It may be a result of multiple conditions including pregnancy, hypothyroidism, disorders of the liver, adrenals and kidneys, tumors of ovary and adrenal glands, malnutrition, anxiety disorders, bulimia, etc.
  • Hirsutism: Abnormal facial hair growth in women is called as hirsutism. It is due to excessive production of the male sex hormones from the ovaries and adrenals. The pattern of hair growth resembles that in men. The woman may also have irregular menstrual periods, loss of feminine features, development of a heavy voice and acne.
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome: It is a chronic condition caused by excessive production of androgens which hamper the production of estrogen and progesterone. It is characterized by irregular menstrual cycle.
  • Hot flashes: They are commonly experienced by women around their menopause or when the ovaries are removed surgically. Low levels of estrogen are said to be responsible for the condition.
  • Infertility: Altered levels of hormones in a woman may result in primary or secondary infertility.
  • Osteoporosis: Low levels of estrogen have been associated with the development of osteoporosis.
  • Estrogen and mood: Low levels of estrogen can result in premenstrual syndrome, postnatal depression and post-menopausal depression. This is because estrogen increases the dopamine 2 receptors as well as the 5- hydroxytryptamine 2A binding sites in the brain which are associated with the control of mood.

Apart from these, other symptoms of hormonal imbalance in women include dryness of the vagina, headaches, urinary incontinence, weight gain, fibrocystic disease of the breasts, uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, altered menstrual blood flow, and dry skin.

Thus, we see that all the hormones in a woman’s body work synergistically to produce optimal results. Disruption in the levels of any of the hormones can result in features of hormonal imbalance.

  • “Estrogen control of central neurotransmission: Effect on mood, mental state, and memory” by George Fink et al. Published in the November 1996 issue of the journal Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology, accessed on April 10, 2012. Retrieved from: http://www.springerlink.com/content/q14m35748k2r8677/
  • “Amenorrhea: Evaluation and Treatment”, by Dr. Tarannum Master-Hunter and Dr. Diana Heiman. Published in the April 15, 2006 issue of the journal American Family Physician, accessed on April 10, 2012. Retrieved from: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2006/0415/p1374.html
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