Hormone Highlight: Estrogen

Hormone Highlight: Estrogen

Hormones Impact More Than Just the Menstrual Cycle

What can you tell me confidently about estrogen? Though estrogen is a common term it is not  often understood to its full extent. 


One of the major functions of estrogen during the reproductive years is building the lining of the  uterus, the endometrium, in order to support a pregnancy or be shed during menstruation. 

The Uterus 

A drawn image of the uterus


Although this hormone is referred to as a reproductive hormone it has far reaching effects  outside of the reproductive system on mood and the body. 

Estrogen in the Menstrual Cycle  

Estrogen slowly begins to rise during the period and peaks at ovulation. It will then drastically  fall and then has a smaller rebound before the menstrual cycle begins.  

A graphic showing fluctuations in estrogen levels during the menstrual cycle


Estrogen on Mood  

Improved Focus, Decision Making, and Memory  

Calm and Optimistic  

Improved Sleep  

Bolder, Sexier, Energized  

Estrogen influences the protection and regulation of the nervous system effecting mood during  the different phases of the menstrual cycle (1).  

Estrogen is produced primarily in the ovaries in the menstruating person (2). Once it is released, it travels through body until it reaches an area where it needs to take action. This is not just within the uterus and other reproductive organs. Estrogen receptors are abundant throughout different regions of the brain and the nervous system. When estrogen interacts with these receptors, it contributes to mood regulation (1). Estrogen up-regulates serotonin, acetylcholine, dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, neurotransmitters in the body which impact mood, stress, sleep, hunger, thirst, and beyond (4). Think of neurotransmitters as  messengers in the body that help the nerve cells communicate in the body supporting that feel good feeling around ovulation. As you can see, the impact is far reaching.  

Estrogen on the Body  

Improves muscle function and mass  

Estrogen supports muscle mass and strength with significant changes noted if a person is in an estrogen deficient state. This is most commonly noted during menopause. The direct effect that estrogen plays is unknown as the fluctuations of the hormone are transient and vary significantly based on age and type of physical activity and person is participating in (6). 

Improved bone mass  

Estrogen supports the growth of bone to support bone density (7). In a reduced state of estrogen, bone mass decreases and increases risk of bone injury (7). Note that a reduced estrogen state is not the same as the normal fluctuations of estrogen throughout the menstrual cycle but a chronic state of reduced estrogen.  

Decreased tendon stiffness  

Joints are supported by ligaments, fibrous structures which hold bone to bone. As estrogen rises during the menstrual cycle, the ligaments in the body become less stiff (5). This places menstruating people at higher risk of ligamentous injury during times of higher estrogen like ovulation (5).  

Healthy vaginal and vulvar tissue  

Estrogen supports moist and plump vaginal and vulvar tissue, elasticity of the vaginal walls, blood flow, and lubrication to allow for comfortable vaginal penetration, birth, and elimination  (8).  

If you are a menstruating person, pay attention to the shifts that your body has throughout your cycle. See if you are able to recognize some of the changes caused by estrogen.

Happy exploring!


All content copyright Ariel Zablocki  

  1. Wharton W, Gleason CE, Olson SR, Carlsson CM, Asthana S. Neurobiological Underpinnings of the Estrogen - Mood Relationship. Curr Psychiatry Rev. 2012 Aug 1;8(3):247-256. doi: 10.2174/157340012800792957. PMID: 23990808; PMCID: PMC3753111 
  1. Simpson, E. R. (2003). Sources of estrogen and their importance. The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 86(3–5), 225–230. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0960-0760(03)00360-1
  2. Matsuda Y, Hirano H, Watanabe Y. Effects of estrogen on acetylcholine release in frontal cortex of female rats: involvement of serotonergic neuronal systems. Brain Res. 2002 May 24;937(1–2):58–65
  3. Wang F, Yang J, Pan F, Ho RC, Huang JH. Editorial: Neurotransmitters and Emotions. Front Psychol. 2020 Jan 29;11:21. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00021. PMID: 32116891; PMCID: PMC7025515.Wang F, Yang J, Pan F, Ho RC, Huang JH. Editorial: Neurotransmitters and Emotions. Front Psychol. 2020 Jan 29;11:21. doi: 10.3389/ fpsyg.2020.00021. PMID: 32116891; PMCID: PMC7025515. 
  4. Chidi-Ogbolu N, Baar K. Effect of Estrogen on Musculoskeletal Performance and Injury Risk. Front Physiol. 2019 Jan 15;9:1834. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2018.01834. PMID: 30697162; PMCID: PMC6341375.
  5. Enns D. L., Tiidus P. M. (2010). The influence of estrogen on skeletal muscle. Sports Med. 40, 41–58. 10.2165/11319760-000000000-00000\ 
  6. Väänänen HK, Härkönen PL. Estrogen and bone metabolism. Maturitas. 1996 May;23 Suppl:S65-9. doi: 10.1016/0378-5122(96)01015-8. PMID: 8865143.
  7. Mac Bride MB, Rhodes DJ, Shuster LT. Vulvovaginal atrophy. Mayo Clin Proc. 2010 Jan;85(1):87-94. doi: 10.4065/ mcp.2009.0413. PMID: 20042564; PMCID: PMC2800285.


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