Reproductive Hormones - Where They Are and How They Work
As sturdy as our bodies appear to be, they really are finely tuned, each part working together with other parts to keep everything in balance. Some of the key players in the function of the body are hormones. They are vitally important to the communications system, transferring information needed by the cells in order to produce proteins or chemicals necessary for life. They are involved in every single biological process from growth to reproduction and some hormones control other hormones. Maintaining proper hormonal balance is key for women, especially women who are trying to conceive.
When Estrogen Is Out of Balance
During the normal menstrual cycle a woman's body produces the two main female hormones, estrogen and progesterone. An excess of estrogen disrupts the balance of the body and can cause disturbances such as:
· hair loss
· low sex drive
· weight gain
Along with this list, estrogen imbalances are linked to a variety of illnesses like allergies, osteoporosis fibrocystic breasts, PMS, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids. The job of estradiol, one of the two estrogens produced in a woman's body, is to encourage the thickening of the uterine lining and to make the cervical mucus "sperm-friendly". The other part of estrogen, androgen (a male hormone) converts into estrogen in the ovaries and dissolves excess follicles after a mature egg is released.
How Progesterone is Produced and What It Does
Progesterone is the hormone produced by the ovaries during the release of a mature egg from the ovary - the process is called ovulation. Progesterone helps prepare the lining of the uterus to receive the egg for implantation if it becomes fertilized. If the egg isn't fertilized the levels of progesterone drop and menstruation starts. Without adequate progesterone, the lining of the uterus may not be dense enough to support a pregnancy and consequently the pregnancy will be lost. During pregnancy, the placenta also produces progesterone and a pregnant woman will have progesterone levels that are 10 times higher than those of a woman who isn't pregnant. If a woman is under a lot of stress, her adrenal glands increase production of and secrete more cortisol, which blocks progesterone receptors and causes progesterone levels to drop.
Other Hormones Involved in Reproduction
However, estrogen and progesterone are not the only hormones involved in reproduction. There are other hormones that are triggered during menstruation that, if out of balance, can alter the level of fertility, ovulation in particular, and cause infertility. Ovulation is a very complex function and the production of eggs is a complicated process that involves the ovaries and two glands that are found in the brain, the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus produces a hormone called gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) that regulates and controls the production of estrogen.
The two hormones that are produced in the pituitary gland, luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) are critical to the production of eggs in the ovaries. Follicle stimulating hormone is self-explanatory and luteinizing hormone helps in the production of androgen, which as mentioned earlier, breaks down follicles in the ovaries that were not released.
Then, There's Thyroid Stimulating Hormone
Along with all of these hormones, the thyroid gland, situated in the neck is also important to fertility. Thyroid hormone is important to health and well being. If thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) balances are mid- to high-normal, there may be an issue with antibodies. If antibodies are present in the TSH, it is an indication that the thyroid gland may be in the process of autoimmune failure. This may be enough to affect fertility or the ability to sustain a pregnancy.
Hormone imbalances can happen to a woman at any stage in her life, from young person through senior, although the symptoms of hormonal imbalances don't usually show up until a woman is in her 20s. If the symptoms are ignored, the chances of complications later on increase. It is especially important to have hormone levels checked if a pregnancy is desired. The most common cause of infertility is unbalanced hormones.
The female reproductive system is an amazing work of art. In this section we have a detailed article to explain its parts and functions.