Estrogen and Menopause

Estrogen production in women

Menopause, the female body's biological transition from the reproductive to non-reproductive phase of life, is typically experienced by women in their early forties or fifties.  It is characterized by, as the definition suggests, the end of menstruation and fertility; it is often accompanied by unpleasant symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings.

The following sections will explain more about menopause and its connection to estrogen. The fluctuations of this hormone during the different menopausal stages and its relationship to the symptoms of this phase of reproductive life will also be discussed.

Estrogen and Menopause

Female Hormones

  • Estrogen
  • Progesterone
  • Testosterone
  • DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone)

Of all of the female hormones, estrogen is the most well-known.  It helps to control the menstrual cycle and promote the formation of secondary female sexual characteristics; therefore, it plays an important part in the menopausal transition.

Menopause is a natural process that occurs due to the ovaries functioning less. As a result of the ovaries control of estrogen production, menopause brings about many changes in the levels of estrogen and other hormones. Hormones essentially control our physical, mental, and emotional well-being, so an imbalance often leads to many irritating symptoms or illnesses.

Menopause can provoke estrogen deficiency, because the ovaries are slowing down and there is a decline in estrogen production. However, menopause can also result in high levels of estrogen as it compensates for the drop in progesterone production.  Excess estrogen and a lack of estrogen each prompt a range of different symptoms.

Fluctuations of Estrogen during Menopausal Stages

Average Estrogen and Menopause

Age (yrs)

  • 20 - 29
  • 30 - 39
  • 40 - 49
  • 50 - 59

Estrogen level (pg/ml)

  • 149
  • 210
  • 152
  • 130

Premenopause

This is the reproductive phase extending from a woman's first period to her last. Monthly cycles cause hormonal fluctuations and, consequently, a range of unpleasant symptoms.

Perimenopause

This is the stage before menopause and the time when most women first experience menopausal symptoms. Perimenopause is, in effect, the reproductive years coming to an end and the resulting changes in estrogen levels trigger unpleasant symptoms such as irregular periods, hot flashes, and night sweats. Perimenopause usually lasts between 2 to 8 years prior to menopause, but it's possible for women to experience symptoms as early as their mid-30s.

Menopause

Menopause occurs when a woman has not had a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months. During this time, fluctuating hormone levels can pose real problems for women, forcing many to seek appropriate relief from troublesome symptoms.

Postmenopause

This phase follows menopause. At this time, a lack of hormones, such as estrogen, triggers a new range of health risks including cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.

Estrogen and Menopause Symptoms

During the stages of menopause, the estrogen levels produced by the body will vary. This is the main reason why there are several symptoms that women will experience.

Hot flash is a common symptom of pre-menopause and perimenopause.

Premenopause and Perimenopause

During a woman's regular monthly period and into perimenopause she will encounter a range of common symptoms including:

  • Hot flashes
  • Mood swings
  • Vaginal dryness and itching
  • Disturbed sleep

Menopause

Throughout menopause, estrogen levels can become extremely unbalanced, resulting in excess or insufficient amounts of estrogen in the body. This can result in additional symptoms which include:

  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss or thinning
  • Sleep disorders
  • Loss of libido
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory lapses
  • Dizziness
  • Weight gain
  • Incontinence
  • Bloating
  • Changes in body odor
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Aching joints
  • Increased muscle tension
  • Itchy or crawly skin
  • Tingling extremities

Postmenopause

For postmenopausal women, there are additional  concerns due to continued low levels of estrogen and other hormones. Health risks during this time are more serious and can be long-term. These include, but are not limited to:

Osteoporosis bone fracture
  • Allergies
  • Strokes
  • Heart disease
  • Lupus
  • Breast or uterine cancer
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Arthritis

After learning more about the relationship between estrogen and menopause, it is important to be aware of any hormonal fluctuation that could cause discomfort in women. To discover more about estrogen imbalance, click on the preceding link.

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