Because hormones are responsible for all human sexual development from puberty through to menopause and andropause, it is important to understand how they work in your body. Hormones also contribute to your overall health and many new forms of hormones that can be taken into the body are now available. There is controversy and ongoing research into the subject. We all owe to ourselves to understand how these important chemical messangers make us who we are.

Hormones are substances that carry chemical messages from one organ to another organ or to other tissues. Sex hormones work together in an intricate pattern to make the reproductive cycle function properly, and they also play a role in your overall health.

The major female sex hormones are estrogen and progesterone. They are produced primarily by your ovaries during your reproductive years.

As you age, your egg supply decreases. As a result, hormone levels fluctuate and then decrease, especially during the years before the onset of menopause. This signals the approach of menopause.

Estrogen

Estrogen is the main female sex hormone. It guides your body through ovulation, conception and pregnancy. Estrogen also affects many tissues in your body, stimulating growth of breast, uterine and ovarian tissue and helping build and maintain bone mass. It plays a role in increasing levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol) and lowering levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol), too.

After menopause, estrogen production from the ovaries declines. Small amounts continue to be produced by your fat cells — in which male-type hormones produced by your ovaries (androgens) are converted to estrogen — but estrogen production drops to about one-third of what it was during your childbearing years.

Progesterone

Progesterone works with estrogen to prepare your body for conception and pregnancy by helping regulate the menstrual cycle. When periods start to become irregular with the approach of menopause (perimenopause), fluctuations in progesterone levels play a role. After menopause, your body produces only a small fraction of the progesterone it produced during your reproductive years.

Androgen

Androgen is commonly thought of as a male hormone, but a woman’s ovaries, adrenal glands and fat cells also produce it. Androgen gets partial credit for the rapid growth spurt girls go through at puberty. And it appears to play a role in maintaining energy, bone and muscle strength and sex drive. During menopause, a woman's androgen production might cut in half, dropping by even more if her ovaries are removed.

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