Estrogen hormones are responsible for female sexual development and function. Estrogen levels rise and fall throughout the month, and then gradually wane as menopause approaches.
Estrogen replacement therapy is sometimes prescribed surrounding menopause for depression and vaginal dryness. Studies have shown estrogen protects against nerve damage and brittle bones, but it also seems to play a role in endometriosis and certain female cancers.
It is normal for levels of estrogen to rise during puberty because estrogen fuels changes in a young girl’s body. In addition, high levels of estrogen are seen in women who are extremely overweight. Levels are also high in women who have high blood pressure or diabetes. Estrogen levels rise during a healthy pregnancy, and increased estrogen levels may be seen in association with tumors of the ovaries, or adrenal glands. Some drugs can also increase estrogen levels.
There are many reasons why estrogen levels fall, including:
Perimenopause is the period of transition before menopause. The first natural decline in estrogen levels starts during this phase. Women going through perimenopause may experience weight gain along with other menopause symptoms such as irregular menstrual periods, hot flashes, and vaginal dryness.
On average, menopause occurs at age 51. When it does, a woman’s body produces less estrogen and progesterone. The drop of estrogen levels at menopause can cause uncomfortable symptoms, including:
Lower levels of estrogen may also increase a woman’s risk for heart disease, stroke and osteoporosis.