One of my specialties is working with those with pelvic pain and part of that, I host a monthly group for women who live with pelvic pain due to endometriosis, vaginismus, interstitial cystitis, and other diagnosis. In April, the group will be hearing from a local endocrinologist about female hormones and their relationship with pelvic pain. Leading up to that presentation, I thought we could take a look at some hormones, neurosteroids, neurotransmitters, and biochemicals that go into making our bodies function. As a reminder, I am not a medical doctor, so if you have concerns or pain, please be sure to consult with your physician.
Let’s start with estradiol which is a type of estrogen, there are three types, that is made by and released by the ovarian follicles. In her book Period Repair Manual: Natural Treatment for Better Hormones and Better Periods, Lara Briden describes estradiol as the best estrogen. Briden goes on to explain her label, “Estradiol is your happy hormone…It stimulates mood and libido because it boosts the neurotransmitters serotonin…and dopamine…”
Estradiol also impacts:
- Skeletal structures, without estradiol the closure of growth plate of our long bones can be delayed or may not even take place. Low levels of estradiol can impact bone density which can lead to fractures, particularly post-menopausal.
- Skin, low levels of estradiol cause skin to thin and atrophy, which leads to a reduction in firmness and strength, increased dryness, and irregularities in skin cells. A drop in estradiol can also lead to acne.
- Nervous system, as highlighted before, estradiol stimulates mood, without it or with less of it can lead to a low mood and low libido. Due to how hormonal birth control works, estradiol is replaced with a synthetic hormone called ethinyl-estradiol. There is speculation that synthetic hormones do not reaction the same which would explain why women report depression, anxiety, and lower libido after starting hormonal birth control.
- Female reproductive system, estradiol is what tells your uterus to grow and thicken it’s lining in preparation for a fetus. It also supports the lining of your vagina and during a pregnancy, encourages your placental to grow. During puberty, estradiol is what promotes breast growth, widening of the hips, and fat distribution, particularly in the thighs and butt. When we look at human behavior, evolutionary psychology believes that heterosexual men are attracted to large breasts and butts because it indicates a high level of estradiol which also supports fertility.
- Cancer, estradiol has been connected to breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and endometrial cancers.
Since estradiol helps increase your libido, it will not come as a surprise that your estradiol levels peak just before ovulation. This is biology’s way to encourage you to seek out sexual activity, increasing your chances of becoming pregnant and perpetuate the species. Estradiol has been found in most mammals, insects, fish, and crustaceans.
In next week’s post, we will take a look at the yang to estradiol’s yin, progesterone. This hormones helps to balance the effects of estradiol in your body.