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Home Useful Information Hormones of the Female Body

Hormones help control and regulate the functions of the reproductive system. A good understanding of these hormones is of paramount importance when attempting to understand the female body and it's biological functions. Each hormone plays a unique role in maintaining and regulating a woman's system, regardless of whether or not a pregnancy has occurred.

Estrogen, contrary to popular belief, is not a single hormone, but rather a group of hormones. These hormones are estrone, estradiol, and estriol. They are also referred to as E1, E2 and E3, respectively. All of the estrogens play an important, yet individually uniques role in the biological functions of the female body.

Estrone, also known as E1, is one of the three naturally occurring estrogens in the female body. Estrone is found in the ovaries, urine and placenta and has a great deal less biological activity than it's parent hormone, estradiol, or E2. More than half of all estrone in a woman's body is produced by the ovaries. High amounts of estrone have been linked to breast cancer.

Estradiol, also known as E2, is the most active estrogen within the female body. Estradiol is responsible for a great deal of biological functions specific to the female body including the density and thickness of mammary tissue (the breasts). Estradiol levels as known to peak during ovulation. Estradiol is the main form of estrogen manufactured by the ovaries and is the central sex hormone responsible for secondary sex characteristics. These secondary sex characteristics include the growth and development of the breasts, widening of the hips, increase in height, and the growth of hair in the pubic region and underarms. Estradiol is responsible for regulating menstruation, as well as menopause.

Estradiol positively impacts collagen production, the thickness and softness of skin, promotes healthy blood flow and lowers low-density lipoproteins (also known as LDL, the "bad" cholesterol), as well as lowering overall cholesterol levels and increasing high-density lipoprotein levels (also known as HDL, the "good" cholesterol. This reduction of "bad" cholesterol and promotion of "good" cholesterol are thought to have a positive impact on the woman's overall heart health and may prevent heart disease.

Estriol is another naturally occurring estrogen, and is a byproduct of the breakdown of estradiol. Estriol is at it's highest levels during a woman's childbearing years. Should the woman become pregnant, the levels of estriol on her body will increase dramatically throughout the course of her pregnancy. Estriol is produced within the liver of a fetus, as well as by the placenta. Estriol can be used to determine a pregnancy is present, as well as used in a test, known as a quad-screen, to verify that the pregnancy is progressing normally. Estriol is the weakest of the estrogens and is thought to have a protective affect on the breasts, playing a role in preventing the development of breast cancer. Estriol is the most common form of estrogen used for the treatment of menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes and mood swings.

Lutenizing Hormone (LH)
The lutenizing hormone, commonly referred to as LH, is always present in the female body, however, this hormone increases just prior to ovulation. This increase is often referred to as an "LH surge." This "surge" of LH, is responsible for triggering the release of the egg during ovulation. LH is commonly tested for by women hoping to conceive, as it can be a good indicator of when intercourse may result in conception.

Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH)
The follicle stimulating hormone, commonly referred to as FSH, is present in both men and women, and is produced in the pituitary gland. In the female body, FSH is responsible for the production and maturation of eggs. FSH stimulates the development of follicles on the ovaries, in which eggs mature and develop, prior to their release during ovulation. It is impossible for pregnancy to occur if there is no FSH in the system. Alternatively, FSH levels that are too high can contribute to infertility. FSH levels directly relate to a woman's ovarian reserve can be tested by a physician in order to determine the extent of a woman's remaining eggs. Although these tests cannot generate an exact number of eggs remaining, they can provide more information to couples who may be struggling with infertility due to low ovarian reserve. FSH levels may also be able to determine whether or not a woman has reached menopause, or suffers from a pituitary gland disorder, or gonadal disorder.

Progesterone is a naturally occurring hormone released from the ovaries during the second half of a woman's reproductive cycle, following ovulation. A pregnant woman will have much higher levels of progesterone, as the placenta produces progesterone, drastically increasing the levels in the woman's body. Progesterone acts on the woman's body by preparing the lining of the uterus for an embryo to implant. If the woman has not conceived, then the levels of progesterone drop and menstruation occurs. Once implantation of the fetus has occurred, progesterone has been shown to decrease the woman's immune function, preventing her own immune system from rejecting the pregnancy.

Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG)
Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) is produced by the placenta after a fertilized egg has implanted into the uterine lining. HCG is the hormone tested for in both home pregnancy tests and pregnancy tests conducted at doctor's offices and clinics. HCG is usually detectable in the urine between ten and fourteen days after ovulation if pregnancy has occurred. HCG can be tested for using blood or urine, however, a blood test known at a quantitative beta HCG is likely to show up positive sooner than a qualitative beta HCG or a urine test.

In most normal pregnancies, HCG levels will double every 48 to 72 hours up until 8-12 weeks into the pregnancy. At that point, the levels of HCG then decrease slightly and maintain a semi-steady amount for the remainder of the pregnancy. Not every pregnancy is the same however, and lower HCG levels, and even HCG levels that do not double very quickly can result in a perfectly healthy and normal pregnancy.