Estrogen is considered as being the principal female reproductive hormone and is the term used to describe a family of ovarian hormones that have similar characteristics.
Starting at puberty, a woman’s ovaries begin to release estrogen in synchronization with each of her monthly menstrual cycles. In the middle of a cycle, estrogen levels will quickly rise, triggering the release of an egg – this is called ovulation. Those levels then fall just as quickly. During the remainder of the cycle, estrogen levels rise and fall steadily. The Luteinizing Hormone (LH) controls the production of estrogen both indirectly and directly during the menstrual cycle. The LH stimulates the “Yellow Body” (corpus lutem) to produce estrogen. Prior to ovulation, the follicle’s granulosa cells are stimulated to create estrogen through an enzyme called aromatase.
Therefore, it is easy to understand that estrogen does indeed play a vital part in female fertility, and especially in regards to ovulation. Estrogen is the most dominate hormone during the first half of a woman’s menstrual cycle; estrogen remains an integral aspect throughout the remaining half the cycle as well.
If a woman’s estrogen levels are low, an imbalance in her natural menstruation cycle may occur because of the normal feedback mechanisms of the hypothalamus and pituitary malfunctioning. In such a case, a woman will find that the lining of her uterus is inadequate and unhospitable for pregnancy to occur. Most of the time, in such a situation, ovulation may not even occur.
Symptoms of Low Estrogen Levels
There are quite a few symptoms of low estrogen in women:
- Vaginal Dryness
- Vaginal infection
- Panic attacks
- Low self esteem
- Memory lapses
- Difficult concentrating
- Night Sweats
- Hot Flashes
- Joint pain
- Dry skin
- Loss of libido
Estrogen Levels and Ovulation
If a woman is reproductively healthy, but there is an absence of ovulation, it is thought to be caused by a hormonal condition – usually low estrogen. This is caused by two factors: The ovaries are not being instructed properly, or the ovaries are unable to release an egg.
The Ovaries Are Not Being Instructed Properly
There are many factors affecting the pituitary gland, such as excessive exercise, low body weight, and even eating disorders. These factors prohibit the pituitary gland from sending proper signals to the ovaries. According to The Merck Manual this means that the ovaries will produce too little estrogen and therefore, ovulation will not occur.
The Ovaries Are Unable To Release an Egg
If the ovaries cannot release an egg, the pituitary hormone, FSH, is usually to blame. Produced by the pituitary gland, FSH is continually sent to the ovaries in order to force the ovaries to create estrogen and release an egg. When the ovaries do not respond, the pituitary gland will increase FSH production.
Women, who have very high levels of FSH, may also experience anovulatory cycles.
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, and/or have had anovulatory cycles, or sporadic cycles, then you should discuss this with your doctor as soon as possible. You may be prescribed estrogen-containing medications to induce ovulation.
Natural remedies like Dong Quai and Soy have been shown to improve estrogen in some women as well.