Oestrogen, testosterone and progesterone

Women produce a number of different sex hormones including oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. After the menopause, either naturally or surgically, these hormones will begin to diminish in quantity – some more quickly than others. It is this reduction which causes most of the menopausal symptoms that women can experience.

OESTROGEN is a powerful female sex hormone that regulates many aspects of our lives. Initially it makes girls develop into women at puberty by stimulating breast growth, laying down fatty deposits, thickening the vagina and causing it to secrete mucous. It affects how our skin looks, whether our bones are strong and healthy and it can protect us against heart disease. It also regulates our menstrual cycle. At the beginning of our cycle about 30 egg follicles will start to ripen and produce oestrogen. When levels of oestrogen in the blood are highest the hypothalamus in the brain release hormones that make a follicle release an egg, therefore if you are not producing enough oestrogen you will not ovulate. It is produced by the ovaries and naturally declines after the woman goes through the menopause.

PROGESTERONE is one of the female sex hormones produced by the ovaries and adrenal glands. It plays an important role in maintaining a pregnancy. As well as helping to sustain pregnancy it also regulates the monthly menstrual cycle.

Its most important function is to encourage the endometrium to secrete proteins in the second half of the menstrual cycle in preparation for a fertilised egg. If no egg is fertilised or implanted then oestrogen and progesterone levels fall and the endometrium breaks down and is passed out through the body through your period bleed.

High levels of progesterone are thought to be responsible for symptoms of PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome). These can include breast tenderness, bloat and mood swings.

There is some debate whether a woman who has had a hysterectomy that removes her ovaries needs to supplement with progestrone as well as oestrogen. The feeling is that it might balance any oestrogen supplements and prevent women from becoming oestrogen dominant, which is what may have caused problems in the first place. However the adrenal glands continue to produce small amounts of progesterone and we also produce some from dietary cholesterol. In most women this will be enough to prevent oestrogen dominance.

TESTOSTERONE is a male hormone but women still produce small amounts of it in their ovaries. Testosterone is produced by the ovaries and helps to regulate sex drive (libido), energy and mental state. Following a natural menopause testosterone will continue to be produced by the ovaries in significant amounts for approximately twelve years, therefore a woman that has her ovaries removed will no longer produce testosterone and this may be responsible for a poor libido, depression and lack of energy following surgery.

Testosterone may also have a role to play in conserving bone after menopause and supplementation with it may be more suitable for women that are unable to take oestrogen who have an increased risk of osteoporosis. However testosterone should not be taken orally, in the form of tablets as it can damage the liver. The usual form of administration is by implant or by injection at regular intervals.

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29 thoughts on “Oestrogen, testosterone and progesterone

  1. I had a total hysterectomy at 33 yrs with a diagonosis of endemetriosis. After surgery i was told no endemetriosis was present and i had pelvic congestion. I was given 0.6mg of oestrogen gel but this proved not to be enough (6m after op) as i was having trouble with vaginal dryness and flushes. I was then increased to 1mg of oestrogen and things improved for a few weeks but then i was in a lot if pain. I was told they thought i had a trapped nerve in my scar tissue so was booked in for laprascopy/cystoscopy (18m after hysterectomy). After surgery i was told i had widespread endemetriosis of the bladder and pelvic wall and that my bladder had divided so had to have it distended and obv the endemetriosis removed. I was told the hrt has caused this. I now have to stay off my hrt for 8 weeks, im in my 3rd week and the vaginal dryness is awful and im not sleeping well either. I see my consultant in 5 weeks time. Anyone else suffered like me and can give their opinion on future hrt or other remedies?? Xxx

    1. You poor thing I have no hormones due to a pituitary tumour which destroyed my pituitary after an operation. I had endometriosis as a teenager and in my 20’s. After my hystoremomy at 33 I also had vaginal dryness I had a testosterone /oestrogen implant privately but it has no become too expensive so I now use a testosterone gel which really helps and improves your sex drive. Good luck to you

    2. Hi Millie do you still have the htt implant because I’m thinking of going on patches due to having a little bit more control over the amount of oestragen I’m having through the implant. Also do you have testerone in every time you have the implant ?
      Thank you

  2. I had a total hysterectomy at 41. It changed my life for the better I had years of painful periods, endometriosis and many gynae ops followed by sever mood swings, hot flushes, memory loss etc. I now take Duloxetine to help with depression and that has also improved my life. I have no regrets in having the operation.

  3. Thanks for your help
    All the best

  4. The more I read these ladies’ comments the more I think surgeons should be taken to task! Why are we made to suffer like this. Is it ABSOLUTELY necessary to take ovaries for heaven’s sake? My own case (age 51) was uterine fibroids – benign! In hindsight, these should have been removed with a D&C – most definitely NOT a hysterectomy with ovaries taken as well! The resulting suffering has been and of course still is (age 66) apparent! I have had substantial relief from joint and back pain taking a 300mg dose of Magnesium daily. This is not prescribed and you can buy it at any pharmacy or drugstore. I am not on any sort of HRT but have tried Progesterone Cream which seems to give some ‘balancing’ mentally and aids sleep patterns. I have researched the subject online and a chap called Gelford seems to have made a study showing that Estrogen/Androgen therapy works for surgical total hysterectomy patients – apparently giving back ‘quality of life!’ Let’s hear it for this Mr Gelford girls!!!! I’m going to try going this via my GP. Let me know what sorts of success rates you girls across the puddle have! Good luck to you all.

    1. You are quite right Kathy. What needs to be taken is only what should be taken. Of course, that may change over the course of a life and not all the alternatives work for every woman. Saying that conservation is important where there are no other health risks. I’ll look forward to hearing from you about the success you have.

  5. Had total hyster. In 1997 and took Premarin ,625 until last year. I have had horrible day and night sweats, aching body, dry skin, hair and nails. Plus. No sleep. My doctor will not listen to my need for help . I feel women should be treated with more compassion for menopause. Help in Seattle.

    1. I absolutely agree with you Sherrie and I’m sorry that they aren’t 🙁

  6. hi i had my sub total hysterectomy in May 2013, i have both ovaries, i feel great, but gaining weight and tired all the time. I have been told i don’t need any hormone replacement. what do you advise.


    1. Have a read of Marilyn Glenville’s book, The New Natural Alternatives to HRT as it may provide you with some suggestions: http://shop.hysterectomy-association.org.uk/new-natural-alternatives-to-hrt/

  7. I am 42 had my hysterectomy in April of 2013 Ive been on .06 mg of estergen since than, My hair feels like i have wax in it all the time no matter what I use, my sex drive went completely out the window which has affected my relationship and the last few weeks my lymph nodes have been swollen and I have constant body aches with headaches feel horrible, do you think I might need more estergen how does it sound like Im getting too much, ive tried talking to my doctor but i only get put on things for depression and anxiety, Im ready to give up..thanks

    1. I think you need to talk to your GP again especially as you say your lymph nodes are swollen – this is usually a sign of some sort of infection.

  8. I had a partial hysterectomy at age 37 and have never taken any hormones. Am now 60 recently have severe swelling and pain in hands, feet, wrists doctor will not listen any suggestions

  9. Hello,
    I had a total hysterectomy almost a year ago (22 May 2012) as a result of endo and subsequently adenomyosis. I was put onto Premarin. I started developing hot flushes (minor ones) and weight gain around my belly and arms. My joints started to hurt really badly and my back aches constantly. I am 43. I feel so old and depressed. I heard about a progesterone cream and for a while after getting it – I started to experience better sleep for the first time in over six months because I didn’t have hot flushes. Now, I am so tired constantly, I have palpatations, I doubt myself, I’m afraid, tearful, have absolutely no interest in anything let alone sex, I have panic attacks, I am moody, I still experience the odd pain in my abdomen and my nails are so weak and they just break for nothing. I am scared to go back to the doctor and have him take me off these horrible tablets! I don’t know what to do! Anyone been in this position before? Trish x

    1. Absolutely Trish, you aren’t alone by any means. The trouble with HRT is that not everything suits everyone and it can take trial and error to be able to find the right one for you. You need to speak with the GP and change what you’re doing.

    2. Hello Trish, I have read your comments and can suggest the HRT pill
      Climaval 2 mg although naturally you ought to discuss with your GP. I had a full hysterectomy and was prescribed Climaval by my Specialist. I have been on this for nine years with no problems at all and feel great. Perhaps worth investigating.

    3. I have and are still going through it. I agree I believe the remedies we are given has got too many side effects. But yet we need to get better

    4. I guess there are side effects to everything we do Wilna, the trick is to find the one that best suits you.

  10. hi there,

    i did a hystectomy 2 years ago and since then i’ve been suffering from pains all over my body with headaches & joint pains.Should i take Oestrogen or not,im 37 years of age.

    1. It is possible that the hysterectomy has triggered some arthtitic pain, this happens but we don’t really know why. It’s also possible that oestrogen may be able to help you too.

    2. I am a 31 year old Ovarian Cancer Survivior and I had a full hysterectomy. I am going through menopause. I can not take estrogen because my cancer grows with it.
      I spoke to my oncologist and told him hie my libidio is gone. He persribed me a very low dose of testosterone. Have any of you ladies tried taking it? It is a compound cream.

    3. Can you tell me more about the cream?
      I had ovary removal 23 years ago and still battling on_Im sure its testosterone thats required.
      Thank you for writing in

    4. Testosterone isn’t available on the NHS unless your GP is prepared to prescribe off-licence.

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