Low estrogen levels: Can this affect ovulation?
Estrogen is the main female reproductive hormone. It is the name given to a family of ovarian hormones which all have similar characteristics. During the female menstruation cycle, the production of estrogen is controlled by the hormone LH (Luteinizing Hormone) both indirectly and directly. The “Yellow Body” (corpus lutem) is directly stimulated by LH to produce estrogen, whereas before ovulation, the granulosa cells of the follicle are stimulated to produce estrogen via an enzyme called aromatase.
Most definitely, estrogen plays a role in female fertility and specifically ovulation. Estrogen is the dominant hormone in the first half of the menstrual cycle and continues to play a part throughout the second half as well. If a woman is deficient in estrogen symptoms such as hot flashes, headaches, night sweats and vaginal dryness may occur. If estrogen is low, the normal feedback mechanisms of the hypothalamus and pituitary do not function causing an imbalance in the natural menstruation cycle. In such women the lining of the uterus is scant and not hospitable to a pregnancy. More often than not, in these women, ovulation may not occur at all.
Estrogen Levels and Ovulation.
When the reproductive anatomy of a woman is normal, the absence or the loss of ovulation is usually caused by a hormonal condition. If estrogen is present, the progestin challenge test will then trigger a menstrual period in the woman. This situation is called ovulation, in which case estrogen levels are typically normal.
If ovulation does not occur in a woman because of very low estrogen levels, there are two possible causes of the problem; Either the ovaries are not being told properly what to do, or the ovaries are incapable of releasing eggs.
The Ovaries Are Not Being Told What To Do.
Excessive exercise, low body weight, and eating disorders all adversely affect the pituitary gland, so that it doesn’t send proper signals to the ovary. Women with these conditions are found to have very low levels of estrogen; they do not bleed in response to the progestin challenge. These women also do not release eggs and hence can not ovulate.
The Ovaries Are Unable To Make Hormones.
If a woman is diagnosed as having low estrogen levels, the next step is to test the blood level of the pituitary hormone FSH. This hormone, produced by the pituitary gland, serves to tell the ovary to make estrogen and to ready the eggs for ovulation.
If the ovary doesn’t have any eggs, or if it can’t release them, the pituitary sends out more and more FSH in an attempt to get the ovary to respond. For the woman who is found to have a very high FSH level, it’s a sign that the pituitary is trying stimulate the ovary but the ovary isn’t responding.
Ovulation or the releasing of eggs goes hand in hand with hormone production. So if eggs are not present, estrogen won’t be produced. Genetic conditions like Turner Syndrome, which also may be associated with short stature, can lead to ovaries that don’t make eggs. And this in turn will trigger an anovulatory cycle.
Treatment For Low Estrogen Levels.
In situations where a woman is not getting her periods normally (ovulating only four to six times a year) and the underlying cause can’t be changed, estrogen-containing medications can help to induce ovulation. Natural remedies such as tofu, dong quai and yams have some estrogenic qualities, but there has not been much medical literature published on their benefits.
Certainly, it’s crucial from a medical perspective to diagnose and treat low-estrogen levels. In addition, low estrogen levels can also have harmful emotional and psychological effects arising from late puberty or hampered fertility.
If you suspect an infertility problem, start noting cervical mucus changes, taking your basal body temperature and noting cervical position changes. Such information is can be very helpful in helping you detect fertility related problems.