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Three Hormones Lost in Menopause

Podcast Episode 12 transcript.

Listen on: Apple, Spotify, Website

Today, I’m talking about the three main sex hormones that, for most women, work harmoniously together during their Premenopause phase: oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. During perimenopause, the levels of these hormones start fluctuating erratically and eventually decline, leading to a range of symptoms.

Premenopausal women mainly produce oestrogen in the ovaries but also in other sites like kidneys, fat cells, skin, and the brain. Oestrogen tells the body when to start and stop processes affecting reproductive and sexual characteristics.

During puberty, a rise in oestrogen leads to the development of secondary sex characteristics like developing breasts and changing body fat distribution or what is known as developing curves.

During the menstrual cycle, oestrogen plays a role in ovulation to encourage the ovaries to release an egg and start to thicken the lining of the uterus, called endometrium, to prepare it for an eventual pregnancy. Oestrogen also helps make intercourse more comfortable, keeping the vaginal walls elastic and lubricated.

With menopause, oestrogen levels drop, eventually stopping ovulation, and symptoms like vaginal dryness, mood changes and hot flushes.

Diminishing oestrogen impacts the rest of the body, too. It leads to increased blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels, reduced bone and muscle mass, and collagen production in the skin. It also negatively impacts brain function, including your ability to focus.

Progesterone is another hormone produced during ovulation. Its primary role is to prepare a woman’s body for pregnancy. If fertilisation doesn’t occur, progesterone levels decrease, leading to a menstrual period.

If fertilisation occurs, the body will continue to make large quantities of progesterone for the duration of the pregnancy.

During perimenopause, as hormones fluctuate, low progesterone levels can cause heavier menstrual bleeds. Decreasing progesterone also causes vaginal dryness.

The third hormone is testosterone. In men, testosterone is mainly produced in the testes. In women, it’s produced in various body parts like the ovaries, kidneys, fat, and skin cells. Women’s bodies make around 20 times less testosterone than men.

Progesterone and oestrogen drop dramatically during perimenopause, but testosterone levels decrease gradually from the age of 20 and are halved by the time women reach 40. Decreasing testosterone contributes to low libido and changes in cognitive function and mood while also increasing the risk of osteoporosis.

I will discuss replacement options for all these hormones in future episodes. In the meantime, I hope this episode has helped you understand how these three hormones function and affect the body when their levels decrease.


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