Having balanced levels of hormones can make you feel your absolute best. On the other hand, having hormone deficiency can make you feel like your body as a whole is out of balance.
When it comes to estrogen being in balance, it is most common to have levels be too low. Recognizing this can be relatively easy when you know the symptoms.
Low estrogen happens most commonly during menopause in women. In addition to recognizing the signs and symptoms, your healthcare provider can do additional testing through blood, urine, or saliva to determine your hormone levels.
Keep reading to learn more about what estrogen is, when low estrogen happens, and the key symptoms that occur with low estrogen.
What is Estrogen?
Estrogen is the main sex hormone in women, but can also be found in men. Estrogen is made mostly by the ovaries, the same organ that releases eggs in the woman. Estrogen is also made in small amounts by the adrenal glands in both men and women.
Estrogen comes in three forms, including estradiol, estriol, and estrone — each of these is very similar but plays different roles in the body.
Estradiol is the most prevalent type in younger women and is commonly the form of estrogen found in birth control pills. Estriol is the estrogen that is most prevalent during pregnancy. Estrone is the type of estrogen that the body makes after menopause; the levels of estrone are much lower than before because they do not have to be used to reproduce.
Estrogen has many roles in the body overall from sexual reproduction and functioning to skin elasticity and mood.
When is Low Estrogen Common?
Having less estrogen happens in almost all women at some point in their life. During and after menopause, estrogen levels fall naturally because you are no longer menstruating or reproductively active.
These low estrogen levels have different effects on different people. The low levels of estrogen are responsible for the symptoms of menopause.
For some, menopause symptoms will be very mild and their lives will be barely impacted. However, for others, the low estrogen levels will result in life-changing symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats on top of depression and being more susceptible to bone fractures.
Luckily, you can work with your doctor to address these symptoms with treatments such as hormone replacement therapy. So, while low levels of estrogen are common in the menopausal period, there are things you can do about it to make your quality of life more bearable.
One of estrogen’s jobs in the body is to signal the body to create vaginal lubrication. This is very helpful when having sex to prevent tears or scrapes in the vagina, that can not only cause intense discomfort, but also leave you more susceptible to infections.
So, when estrogen levels are low, it is common for you to experience vaginal dryness. You will have less natural lubrication, so you will need to take matters into your own hands. In addition to the lack of lubrication, your vagina itself may lose elasticity and can become thinner, making sex uncomfortable.
Luckily, this is usually an easy fix with some lubricant that you can purchase at almost any store. This will make sex more comfortable for you and your partner.
The image of a menopausal woman suffering from a hot flash is one of the most iconic low estrogen symptoms.
The hot flash itself feels as if the room is very hot, and you often begin getting sweaty all of a sudden. It is not known exactly why these hot flashes occur with low estrogen, but scientists think it is because it makes the body more aware of small shifts in temperature.
Hot flashes are very uncomfortable, but there are some things that can be done to make you feel more comfortable.
One thing you can do is to wear light clothing in natural fabrics like cotton or linen. This helps to regulate your body temperature and hopefully prevent the hot flashes from occurring or make you cooler if one does happen.
Another thing that can be done is to carry a fan, either manual or electronic, around with you so that if a hot flash comes on you can cool yourself down.
Night sweats are another well-known low estrogen symptom. Night sweats usually result in a completely soaked sheet and pillowcase. They can even wake you up and leave you feeling hot and uncomfortable, similarly to a hot flash, just while you are sleeping. This can be not only annoying but interrupt your sleep schedule and leave you feeling tired and irritable.
When you are already feeling uncomfortable, losing sleep is the last thing that you need. The remedies for night sweats are similar to hot flashes and include turning a fan on, wearing light pajamas or none, using a light sheet or no covers. Helping to control your temperature is a big factor in getting your sleep back.
Estrogen is one of the key players in regulating the menstrual cycle, along with hormones like progesterone, luteinizing hormone, and follicle-stimulating hormone. When estrogen becomes low you may notice that periods are irregular such as not being regular timing, different flow, or stopping all together. This is part of menopause, but if estrogen is low during other parts of your life you may notice unwanted menstrual changes.
If your menstrual cycle is irregular it is always recommended to see your doctor to be assessed. This could make it difficult to get pregnant as well because you are not menstruating on a regular basis, so it can be hard to predict when the best time is to conceive. Overall, low estrogen levels can have a big impact on the menstrual cycle.
Estrogen plays a large role in sex drive or libido. Because of this, there is often a noticeable decrease in sexual desire if you’re estrogen deficient. This can be frustrating for you and your partner, especially as you are experiencing so many other changes as well.
In addition to medical therapies, there are some things you can do to support your sex drive. For example, you can do things to make you feel sexy such as getting ready and wearing your favorite outfit, scheduling a date night, or even including something in the bedroom such as sex toys.
While all of these things can help to make you feel more sexual, it is also okay to just be patient with yourself and not feel pressured to have sex. If this is the case, simply communicate to your partner your feelings of needing to take some time.
Women in menopause can experience mood swings from feeling completely normal to depressed, and then to the extreme high. These mood swings are a result of the low estrogen and are not something you can have too much control over without medications.
This may be a little frustrating for you, but is likely more difficult for those around you. The best thing to do about this is to share with your loved ones what you are experiencing so that they can be supportive and more understanding.
The more that they know about low estrogen and mood the better it will be because they will at least have an explanation for why you may be acting differently. Luckily, once your body gets used to its new normal, your mood will likely return to normal.
Urinary incontinence is another low estrogen symptom, but it is less commonly talked about than the other ones. Urinary incontinence can come in multiple forms, but the most common types with low estrogen are stress incontinence and urge incontinence.
Stress incontinence occurs when urine leaks after the bladder are under stress such as when you laugh or sneeze.
Urge incontinence is when you have a sudden and strong urge to urinate, you may also leak a small amount of urine before you get the chance to relieve your bladder fully. This occurs with low estrogen because the lining to the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of your body, begins to thin and become less elastic. This is a similar effect to what occurs with the vaginal canal. The weakening of the urethra makes it more difficult to control the release of urine. This can be helped with Kegel exercises to assist in strengthening the pelvic floor muscles.
Low estrogen happens to many people, especially in menopausal women. Low estrogen can manifest itself as low libido, vaginal dryness, urinary incontinence, mood swings, hot flashes, night sweats, menstrual irregularities, and more.
If you are experiencing any of these it may be indicated to visit your OBGYN, primary care provider, or to schedule a telemedicine consult with us right here Elite HRT. We’re happy to help!
Urinary Incontinence, Sexual Side Effects of Menopause | The North American Menopause Society
Hormone.org “What is Estrogen? | Endocrine SocietyHot flashes – Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic