Estrogen: A Crucial Female Hormone
Womens Health > Estrogen: A Crucial Female Hormone
Estrogen is a hormone (chemical messenger that carries instructions and information from one group of cells to another) produced chiefly by the ovaries, and is vital in regulating various aspects of menstrual cycle and pregnancy, and promoting the development of female characteristics. In low amount, estrogen is present in males as well, but its major function is in females.
In women, the receptors of this hormone are present in the brain, liver, heart, bones, and various other tissues. Estrogen circulates in the blood and upon reaching its target organs (organ having estrogen receptors), it binds to them and signals them to perform specific functions. In this manner,
When a woman begins menstruating during puberty, the pituitary gland in her brain stimulates her ovaries to mature one egg cell during each monthly cycle. As the egg matures and releases, the ovaries are stimulated to secrete estrogen and progesterone. Two of these hormones cause the uterine endometrium (lining of uterus) to grow and thicken in preparation to nourish the fetus if pregnancy occurs. In case the pregnancy occurs, estrogen and progesterone levels of are maintained high and they regulate various aspects of pregnancy. However, if pregnancy does not occur, the levels of these hormones decline and you get a period. A new cycle begins thereafter. Thus, with the onset of puberty, ovaries start secreting estrogen. This estrogen plays an imperative role in bringing about the development of female secondary sexual characters such as breast development, hair in armpit and pubic areas, broadening of hips etc.
The Other Important Roles of Estrogen
- Estrogen together with calcium and certain other hormones and minerals help build the bones. With the onset of menopause, there is a decline in estrogen secretion so the risk of osteoporosis (a disease in which bone become extremely weak) increases.
- Estrogen raises the levels of good cholesterol. Thus, after menopause, the risk for blockage of arteries increases.
- Estrogen helps to keep the vagina lubricated and flexible.