Estrogen, the principal female sex hormone, plays a vital role in women’s bodies, which is why the loss of this hormone at menopause can have such a profound effect physically, mentally and emotionally. Fortunately, bioidentical estrogen replacement therapy can relieve many of the symptoms of menopause, allowing women to feel like themselves again.
Estrogen is primarily produced in the ovaries, although a small amount is also produced by fat cells. Once a female enters puberty – officially becoming a woman capable of reproduction – the ovaries release estrogen in conjunction with the menstrual cycle. Halfway through this cycle, when estrogen levels are at their highest, the ovary releases an egg, which is when a woman is most fertile. After ovulation, estrogen levels decrease. Estrogen also aids in vaginal lubrication and maintains the mucous membrane in the uterus.
It is estrogen that creates many of the differences in the male and female body. Estrogen broadens the pelvis, causes breasts to develop during puberty, and boosts fat storage in the thighs and hips.
During pregnancy, estrogen goes into overdrive, because it maintains the uterine lining and protects the growing fetus. It triggers breast enlargement and eventual milk production. It is estrogen that stimulates the development of fetal organs and the baby’s bone density.
Estrogen may help prevent certain diseases such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and colon cancer. Estrogen improves skin quality and bone strength.
When women enter menopause, the ovaries cease estrogen production, and the body is no longer capable of pregnancy. Technically, a woman is considered menopausal when she has not had a period for at least a year, but many women suffer menopausal symptoms during the period of peri-menopause when their periods may become irregular. The lack of estrogen, whether during full menopause or peri-menopause, may cause all sorts of issues in a menopausal woman’s body such as:
- Brain fog
- Hair loss
- Hot flashes
- Lack of libido
- Mood swings
- Night sweats
- Weight gain
- Vaginal dryness
It is rare for a lack of estrogen not to impact a menopausal woman’s quality of life.
Bioidentical Estrogen Replacement Therapy
Bioidentical estrogen replacement therapy replaces lost hormones via plant-based, molecularly identical estrogens. Bioidentical estrogen replacement therapy is available in various forms such as tablets, injectables, intradermal pellets, gels, and creams. Women suffering from vaginal dryness may benefit from topical estrogen, while those dealing with more severe issues may need estrogens acting internally. Unlike standard estrogen replacement therapy derived from conjugated equine estrogens found in a pregnant mare’s urine, bioidentical estrogen replacement therapy does not raise the risk of developing breast cancer or heart disease.