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Premenopause and Hormones

As with most of the changes women's bodies undergo throughout their lives (e.g., puberty, pregnancy, etc.), the main cause is usually hormonal fluctuations. The female body relies in a delicate balance of hormones - such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone - to regulate reproduction and other functions.

Hormonal causes of premenopause

Premenopause and Hormones1

Since the early years of their reproductive lives, hormones play prominent roles in many of the most significant changes women experience. In premenopause, the situation is no different.

All of the premenopause symptoms women experience around their menstrual periods is also known as premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which is principally caused by an imbalance of hormones in the body.

Premenopause and Natural Hormones

The menstrual cycle is regulated by estrogen, progesterone, and other natural hormones. A drop in these hormones triggers the shedding of the uterine lining, but it can also trigger uncomfortable symptoms as a side effect.

Premenopause and Estrogen

There are two main ways to introduce estrogen into the body: phytoestrogenic herbs and HRT.

When hormone levels gradually increase again after a period has finished, symptoms typically disappear until the next period. Continue reading to learn about the use of estrogen as treatment for premenopause symptoms.

Premenopause and Estrogen

Herbs and Estrogen

Changes in estrogen levels appear to be the primary reason women experience premenopause symptoms, such as irregular periods, weight gain, and hot flashes. Doctors routinely prescribe estrogen pills to women experiencing moderate to severe premenopause symptoms. For women who would rather not take synthetic pills, a variety of herbs can also help women treat their hormone fluctuations.

Estrogen and herbs: phytoestrogenic herbs

These herbs have the particular characteristic of producing compounds very similar to human estrogen. Some phytoestrogenic herbs include black cohosh, ginseng, and dong quai. Many women who have taken supplements made from them claim that they have a positive effect on their symptoms.

There is one drawback to the use of phytoestrogenic herbs. Studies have shown that they lose their effectiveness if taken over an extended period of time and may actually end up harming a woman's natural ability to produce estrogen.

Premenopause and Synthetic Hormones

Synthetic hormones are derived from plant or animal hormones or synthesized from scratch in a lab. Pharmaceutical hormone prescriptions are considered synthetic hormones.

Premenopause and birth control pills

Birth control pills add hormones a woman's body, typically estrogen, with synthetic hormones of a similar chemical structure.

Although birth control pills has been shown to be an effective treatment for women experiencing severe hormone imbalance, research has shown that using it involves an increased risk of certain types of cancer.

Understanding hormones during premenopause is a good first step; the next one is to learn about the different premenopause symptoms and how they can affect women. Click on the following link to learn about premenopause symptoms.

Sources:
  • Love, S. (2003). Menopause and Hormone Book. New York: Three Rivers Press.
  • Office on Women's Health. (2014). Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) fact sheet. Retrieved March 31, 2016, from http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/premenstrual-syndrome.html