Female Sex Hormones: Hormones Affect More Than Just Periods
When someone says the term “female hormones,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? If you’re like most women, you probably think of your menstrual cycle. While it’s true that our hormones regulate our monthly cycles, they do much more than that.
It turns out our hormones (including estrogen, progesterone, and even testosterone) are pretty dedicated workhorses with a lot of different duties, including regulating sexual desire. If you think about how many hats we women wear every day, it’s no surprise that our hormones are also exceptional multitaskers. To get to know our incredible bodies a little better, here’s how female sex hormones affect more than just our periods.
Types of Female Sex Hormones
Two main female sex hormones take center stage in our bodies: estrogen and progesterone. These two hormones play leading roles in the female body, and they’re frequently the topic of conversation when discussing the menstrual cycle and women’s sexual desire. The ovaries produce oestrogen (estrogen) and progesterone. A small amount of estrogen is also produced by the adrenal gland of each kidney.
We can’t forget to mention the sex steroid testosterone as well. Even though it’s considered a male sex hormone, testosterone is also an important hormone in the female body. We only need a small amount of this androgen, which is produced in each ovary.
Additional female reproductive hormones include:
- gonadotropin-releasing hormone (also known as GnRH)
- luteinizing hormone (also commonly spelled luteinising hormone)
- follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)
Luteinizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone are both released by the pituitary gland in the brain.
What Do Sex Hormones Do?
Sex hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, help regulate our sexual desire. Women’s hormones can increase libido or decrease it, depending on whether or not they’re properly balanced in our bodies.
As women, we know that estrogen is one of our most important hormones. But many of us don’t really understand what it does. In pubescent females, estrogen is primarily responsible for developing and maintaining various parts of the reproductive system. It is also responsible for increasing breast size and stimulating the growth of pubic hair. It also happens to be one of the primary hormones responsible for sexual desire.
There are different forms of estrogen in the body. Estradiol is the most dominant type during our reproductive years. Estradiol level fluctuations are normal at different stages in our lives. In postmenopausal women, estrone takes the place of estradiol as the prominent form of estrogen. During pregnancy, estriol emerges as the dominant form of circulating estrogen.
Progesterone’s primary role in our bodies is to get our uterine lining ready for a fertilized egg, support a healthy pregnancy, and help suppress the production of estrogen after we ovulate. Our adrenal glands, placenta, and ovaries all produce progesterone. During pregnancy and ovulation, our progesterone levels spike.
When progesterone levels spike in the body and estrogen drops, it can result in reduced sexual desire (which is why there are certain times during the menstrual cycle and potentially during pregnancy when having sex sounds about as fun as getting your teeth pulled).
Testosterone is an androgen that regulates many different processes in the male body. It’s a major steroid hormone that plays a significant role in reproduction. In females, this androgen has a huge impact on sexual desire, even though it’s present in only small amounts in our bodies. In addition to helping us get in the mood, testosterone also plays a role in regulating the menstrual cycle and developing muscle and bone strength. It’s important to have a balanced testosterone level if we want to optimize our sexual desire.
How Hormones Change Each Month
Every month, our bodies go through hormonal changes that can affect our sexual desire. That’s why there are certain times of the month when we naturally feel friskier and have an easier time getting sexually excited. There are also times when it’s practically impossible for us to get turned on. This cycle is normal and is nothing to be alarmed about in most cases.
Since all women go through the same basic hormonal changes every month, you may be wondering why we don’t all feel sexy at the same point in the cycle. The fact is that each body is different. While most females feel hornier during their follicular phase (the first half of the cycle), not every woman may experience this. It all depends on individual hormone levels and whether or not there is a hormonal imbalance.
Puberty, Pregnancy, and Menopause
Puberty is when most females start to experience the beginnings of sexual desire as our bodies go through some pretty significant changes spurred by the flood of sex hormones. Once we get our regular monthly cycle, we will probably start experiencing regular periods of increased sexual desire followed by periods of decreased desire. This is normal and will likely follow a somewhat consistent pattern up until pregnancy or menopause.
During pregnancy, progesterone increases, which would normally lead to a decreased sex drive. However, in addition to an increase in progesterone, estrogen and testosterone increase as well. This sexual hormone formula can cause your libido to go through the roof at certain times during pregnancy.
However, don’t feel bad if your pregnancy doesn’t bring to mind visions of sex and rainbows. Being pregnant can also be hard on the body, and your various aches and pains might make you dread intimacy. Many of us women also feel less attractive when we’re pregnant, making it difficult to get naturally lubricated.
If we talk to our partners and help them understand how we’re feeling, they’ll be more likely to respond to our sexual shyness with understanding and patience. Take comfort in the fact that your sex drive will likely return to normal in the months after you’ve had your baby (though it may be a bit like a roller coaster right after delivery).
During menopause, estradiol, testosterone, and progesterone levels drop erratically. This can lead to a whirlwind of emotions (if you’ve gone through menopause, you know exactly what I’m talking about!) Postmenopausal women often seek out hormone therapy because their glands produce such low levels of sex hormones. As estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone levels drop, we’re more likely to experience vaginal dryness, imbalanced hormone levels, and changes in sexual behavior as our desire plummets.
What Are the Causes of Female Sexual Dysfunction?
When our adrenal glands stop producing a healthy number of hormones, and we develop hormone imbalances, it can potentially lead to female sexual dysfunction. You may have this issue if you experience any of the following:
- Low sexual desire
- Inability to achieve orgasm even after sufficient stimulation
- Sexual pain associated with vaginal contact or stimulation
- Difficulty achieving or maintaining arousal
For those of us who experience these symptoms, we may want to visit our gynecologist for an evaluation. There may be treatments available for us, such as postmenopausal hormone therapy, estrogen therapy, or natural treatments.
Can a Girl Take Female Hormones?
As mentioned above, there are treatments a girl can take to help increase sexual desire. However, there are some side effects associated with hormone replacement therapy. They include headaches, mood changes, breast tenderness, bloating, nausea, and vaginal bleeding.
For those of us women who prefer Mother Nature’s remedies for our female problems, there are natural supplements specially formulated to balance our hormones and improve our libido. Two such products are Herlove and Hertime. Both contain natural ingredients shown to boost libido and support healthy hormone levels in sexually developed women of all ages.