Estrogen, also spelt as oestrogen, is a vital hormone that is essential for the optimal functioning of the female reproductive system. It is one of the two crucial sex hormones in women, the other key chemical messenger being progesterone. Although estrogen is present in men, it is secreted only in very small amounts.
The primary site of estrogen synthesis in females is the ovaries, which are the pair of ductless glands located on either side of the uterus. Additionally, estrogen is synthesized by the adrenal glands in the kidneys and fat tissues. The endocrine system in women produces three distinct types of estrogen, namely estrone (E1), estradiol (E2) and estriol (E3), which play significant roles in the various phases of reproductive development in women.
The female body continues to synthesize this form of estrogen even during the menopause stage i.e. when monthly menstrual cycles have ceased to occur.
This type of estrogen is crucial for healthy reproductive operations and is the most common chemical produced by the female body, during the childbearing years.
Once the sperm has fertilized with the egg within the female reproductive tract, hormonal fluctuations are witnessed, with estriol i.e. E3 being the primary kind of estrogen hormone secreted during the pregnancy period.
Estrogen And Its Structure:
The terminology “estrogen” is coined from the Greek words “oestros” meaning a particular phase of sexual activity in female mammals and “genos” that implies generating. Researchers, when addressing this hormone in scientific literature, initially published journal articles referring to this sex-related compound in the female body as “oestrin”. This gradually evolved into estrogen and oestrogen, which mean the same today and can be used interchangeably.
Estrone (E1) was the first kind of estrogen hormone to be discovered in the year 1929, by two renowned researchers and Nobel Laureates - German biochemist Adolf Butenandt and American scientist Edward Adelbert Doisy, along with pioneering studies on sex hormones by American physiologist Edgar Allen. Following this pathbreaking finding, estriol was discovered in 1930 and estradiol in the year 1933.
The main type of estrogen widely present in adolescent girls and young women who are not pregnant, is estradiol (E2), with estrone (E1) being prominent only in menopause and estriol (E3) being exclusively secreted during pregnancy. The biochemical structure of estradiol is similar to cholesterol. It comprises an aromatic ring and two hydroxyl groups. All three types of estrogens perform numerous key functions in the body, to uplift female reproductive abilities.
Functions Of Estrogen:
The foremost responsibility of estrogen is the development of sexual characteristics in adolescent girls when they attain puberty. These comprise the development of breasts, sprouting of hair in pubic and underarm regions, the onset of menstruation, menstrual cycles or monthly periods. The occurrence of menstrual cycles in consistent intervals of once every 28 to 35 days is very important for maintaining optimal reproductive wellness in women and instances of erratic periods must be checked with the doctor and mended with proven remedies.
Also Read: Yoga For Irregular Periods: Proven Asanas To Regulate Menstrual Cycles And Rectify Hormonal Imbalance
Besides salient roles in puberty and pregnancy, estrogen is valuable for fostering strong bones, elevating mood, memory and revitalizing skin texture in women.
Excess estrogen can lead to several health complications in women, such as:
- Weight gain, mainly in your waist, hips, and thighs
- Menstrual problems, such as light or heavy bleeding
- Worsening of premenstrual syndrome
- Fibrocystic breasts (non-cancerous breast lumps)
- Fibroids (noncancerous tumours) in the uterus
- Anxiety and depression
- Loss of sex drive
Also Read: Premenstrual Syndrome: A Brief Guide
The most common reason for low estrogen in women is menopause or surgical removal of the ovaries. Symptoms of low estrogen include:
- Less frequent menstrual periods or that stop
- Hot flashes (suddenly feeling very warm) and/or night sweats
- Trouble sleeping
- Dryness and thinning of the vagina
- Low sexual desire and mood swings