How Are Estrogen and Progesterone Different?

How Are Estrogen and Progesterone Different?

Your hormones are chemical messengers that regulate just about every process in your body. Hormones help you grow from babyhood to adulthood, control your appetite and metabolism, and are responsible for your reproductive capabilities.

Estrogen and progesterone are the two main hormones associated with the female reproductive system. When you reach your 40s and 50s and head into perimenopause, and eventually menopause, your levels of estrogen and progesterone drop dramatically. 

In fact, it’s the bottoming out of your female sex hormones that triggers the unpleasant symptoms associated with menopause. Hot flashes, night sweats, and insomnia all have their roots in declining estrogen and progesterone. 

Rafiq Mian, MD, our expert gynecologist at Mian OB/GYN & Associates in Silver Spring, Maryland, often recommends hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to restore hormonal balance. Whether you’re in perimenopause, menopause, or have another condition that’s affected your hormones, here’s what you need to know about estrogen and progesterone.

What estrogen does

Estrogen actually refers to a group of hormones called the estrogens. All of them were involved in your growth and development into a woman. 

The estrogens are:

Your ovaries produce most of your estrogens. However, smaller amounts of estrogens are also produced by your fatty tissue and by your adrenal glands, which sit on top of your kidneys. Estrogen regulates your menstrual cycle and also ensures the health of important organs, including your:

When your estrogen drops, all of these organs and systems are affected. That’s why during perimenopause and menopause you may lose hair, develop dry or sagging skin, and experience brain fog and insomnia.

What progesterone does

Progesterone is sometimes called the “happy hormone” because it tends to keep your mood balanced and positive. Progesterone helps you stay pregnant once you’ve conceived a child. It regulates your menstrual cycle and also stimulates your libido.

Your ovaries and adrenal glands produce progesterone. If you become pregnant, your placenta produces it, too. When your progesterone dips during perimenopause and plummets in menopause, you may experience symptoms such as:

A common symptom during perimenopause is bleeding for a prolonged period of time (i.e., more than seven days). We may recommend short-term progesterone to regulate your cycle again.

Why you may need HRT

Your hormones influence one another. If you’re low in progesterone, for example, estrogen becomes dominant, which can cause weight gain and mood swings. 

Most women who still have their uteruses benefit from replacing both estrogen and progesterone. However, we conduct a thorough exam and check bloodwork to determine your specific, individual needs. 

When you still have a uterus, taking progesterone helps mediate estrogen’s effects on the uterine lining (the endometrium). Without progesterone, too much estrogen could cause the cells in the endometrium to grow too quickly, leading to cancer of the endometrium. Progesterone reduces that risk by keeping the endometrium thin.

If you’ve had a hysterectomy or, for other reasons, don’t have a uterus, we may recommend estrogen alone. Estrogen-only therapy is associated with fewer long-term risks than the combination of estrogen with progesterone.

If you’re a candidate for HRT, we may insert an estrogen pellet in a fleshy part of your arm or in your hip. The pellet normalizes your estrogen levels within about two weeks. They can last for 3-6 months at a time and then must be replaced. If you still have a uterus, we may also prescribe oral progesterone.

Set up a consultation and reap the benefits of balanced hormones. Contact us by phone or via the online form today.

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