How Female Sex Hormones Work

Oestrogen and progesterone are the two types of female hormones. The ovaries secret the hormones from puberty onward, through until the menopause. Each month allows the hormones to interact which in turn allows the release of an egg once this has been done and conditions are right for the egg to fertilize it is implanted to the uterus.

A healthy womb relies on progesterone which is triggered at certain times of the monthly cycle to ensure a healthy womb lining (uterus). With the conditions just right a fertilized egg will attach itself to the womb lining before the monthly cycle ends. If an egg does take then the levels of progesterone in the body remains high helping to ensure a healthy womb lining during pregnancy. On the other hand if an egg does not attach itself to the womb lining before the end of the monthly cycle the levels of progesterone reduce and the endometrium (the lining of the uterus) is expelled during the monthly period (menstrual cycle)

Oestrogen is responsible for the female characteristics which include breast development a widening of the pelvis and pubic hair. synthetic forms of these two hormones are used by the medical profession to treat a number of conditions. These are known as oestrogens and progestogens.

Why are they used

The most common use of both oestrogens and progestogens is in the oral contracepitive pill. The pills come either combined, phased or with one or the other hormone. The combined oral contraceptive pill is commonly used and has a lower rate of unwanted pregnancies.

The combined pills to name some, are: Loestrin 20, femodette and mercilon. Progestogen only pills (with no oestrogen) include: Cerazette, femulen, microval, micronor and neogest and others.

There is also the morning after pill levonelle and levonelle-2 which also contain no oestrogen. There are other disorders such as: menstrual and certain hormone-sensitive cancers, which are beyond this page overview

If you are among the percentage of women that regularly suffer heavy, painful periods or longer than normal periods then the combined pill would be of more benefit. It is also possible for some women to have a bad reaction to the oestrogen in the combined pill if this is so then a progestogen only pill would be recommended however, progestogen only pills have a high failure rate when compared to the combined pill.

Hormone deficiency may occur as a pituitary disorder (Gonadotropins) which are protein hormones secreted by gonadotrope cells of the pituitary gland of vertebrates. Ovarian failure which is an abnormal development of the ovaries, may lead to the lack of menstruation as well as the lack of sexual development. If after adequate tests which show a lack of gonadotrophins then preperations of these hormones may be prescribed, as it is these hormones trigger the release of both oestrogen and progesterone from the ovaries.

If ovarian failure is the problem of hormone deficiency and everything is OK on the pituitary side then supplements of oestrogens and progestogens may be prescribed. Although these supplements cannot stimulate ovulation they will ensure the development of the female characteristics.

How they affect you

When treatment for ovarian failure or a delay in puberty is prescribed it could take 2 to 4 months before you may see any noticeable difference in sexual development. If you were prescribed the hormones for menopausal problems then a noticeable difference to the menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes would be reduced quit considerably.

Both of these hormones carry the possibility of side effects such as fluid retention, oestrogen itself may cause vomiting, nausea, headache, dizziness, breast tenderness and depression. All forms of contraceptive pills may cause what is known as breakthrough bleeding problems between the menstrual period in the initial stage, but this is more evident in progestogen only pill.

List of the most common drugs used

Oestrogens

  • conjugated oestrogens.
  • Estradiol.
  • Estriol.
  • Estrone.
  • Estropipate.
  • Tibolone.

Progestogens

  • Dydrogesterone.
  • Hydroxyprogesterone.
  • Levonorgestrel.
  • Medroxyprogesterone.
  • Norethisterone.
  • Norgestrel.
  • Progesterone.
  • Raloxifene.