Estrogens are a group of hormones that play an essential role in the growth and development of female sexual characteristics and reproductive functions, including menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. Men also produce estrogen, but in much lower amounts.
There are three major naturally occurring estrogens in women:
- Estradiol: This is the most common type in women of childbearing age. It’s a form of estrogen that fluctuates throughout the menstrual cycle and is mainly produced in the ovaries.
- Estriol: This type of estrogen is most commonly detected in pregnant women. It is produced by the placenta, the organ that develops during pregnancy to provide oxygen and nutrients to the growing baby.
- Estrone: This type is prominent after menopause, when the ovaries stop releasing eggs. It’s a weaker form of estrogen and is mainly produced in fat tissues.
Estrogen hormones are also synthesized in laboratories for use in a variety of treatments such as hormonal birth control and menopausal hormone therapy.
The function of these hormones extends beyond reproduction. They also influence bone strength, skin health, cholesterol levels in the bloodstream, mood, and cognitive functions. Additionally, they have protective roles in conditions like heart disease and certain types of breast cancer.
However, they can also contribute to health problems, including certain types of cancer, menstrual problems, and osteoporosis. Therefore, the balance of these hormones is crucial in the human body.