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Normal Testosterone and Estrogen Levels in Women

(continued)

Do estrogen levels fall at menopause? continued...

Perimenopause is the period of transition before menopause. The first natural decline in estrogen levels starts during this phase. Other physiological changes also start. Women going through perimenopause may experience weight gain along with other menopause symptoms. For instance, there may be irregular menstrual periods, hot flashes, and vaginal dryness.

On average, menopause occurs at age 51. When it does, a woman's body produces less estrogen and progesterone. The drop of estrogen levels at menopause can cause uncomfortable symptoms, including:

  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Vaginal dryness or itching
  • Loss of libido or sex drive

Some women experience moodiness. That may or may not be related to the loss of estrogen. Lower levels of estrogen may also increase a woman's risk for heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis and fractures.

 

Why do estrogen levels rise?

During puberty, it's normal for levels of estrogen to rise. That’s because this hormone fuels changes in a young girl's body. For example, it plays a role in the development of breasts, a more mature curved figure, fuller hips, and pubic and underarm hair.

In addition, high levels of estrogen are seen in women who are extremely overweight. Levels are also high in women who have high blood pressure or diabetes. Estrogen levels rise during a healthy pregnancy, and increased estrogen levels may be seen with tumors of the ovaries, testes, or adrenal glands.

Some drugs, such as steroid medications, ampicillin, estrogen-containing drugs, phenothiazines, and tetracyclines can increase estrogen levels.

What happens when testosterone levels rise or fall?

If your body produces too much testosterone, you may have irregular or absent menstrual periods. You may also have more body hair than the average woman. Some women with high testosterone levels develop frontal balding. Other possible effects include acne, an enlarged clitoris, increased muscle mass, and deepening of voice.

High levels of testosterone can also lead to infertility and  are commonly seen in polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is an endocrine condition that is sometimes seen in women of childbearing age who have difficulty getting pregnant. Women with PCOS have symptoms similar to those produced by high testosterone levels. They include:

  • Obesity
  • An apple-shaped body
  • Excessive or thinning hair growth
  • Acne
  • Menstrual irregularity

PCOS is associated with:

  • Higher levels of circulating male hormones
  • Insulin resistance
  • Carbohydrate intolerance -- conditions that make you prone to gaining weight
  • Low levels of HDL -- ''good'' -- cholesterol
  • Elevated triglycerides
  • High LDL -- ''bad'' -- cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure

As women with PCOS age, the presence of these risk factors increases their risk for heart disease.

At menopause, women experience a decline in testosterone. That decline may be correlated to a reduced libido. Some findings indicate that testosterone replacement therapy may benefit sexual function in certain perimenopausal and postmenopausal women. Testosterone replacement is unadvised in women with breast or uterine cancer. It also may increase the chances of cardiovascular disease or liver disease. So, experts are cautious about recommendations.

 

WebMD Medical Reference

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