Oestrogen and progesterone are two of the most important female hormones. They affect mood, sex drive, weight gain and many other bodily factors. Normally, these two hormones are in balance. However, when levels of one or the other dip below what is normal, problems can occur. This is most commonly associated with menopause but may occur at other times during a woman's life. Knowing the symptoms of a hormonal imbalance is the first step in getting help.
Irregular or Absent Menstruation
Low levels of progesterone or oestrogen can affect a woman's menstrual cycle. Girls who don't get their first period when expected may be suffering from too little oestrogen, for instance. Athletes may also suffer from a lack of menstruation, due to high testosterone and low oestrogen levels. Too much oestrogen may cause menstruation more often than expected, or result in abnormal bleeding. Women who experience sudden changes in their cycles should consult a specialist immediately; those changes may signal a larger problem.
Oestrogen and progesterone also affect mood. Irritability and depression can be caused by too little progesterone or too little oestrogen. Low oestrogen states tend to result in sadness and hopeless feelings, while low progesterone states are more likely to result in agitated, worried depression and a tendency toward mood swings. Women with an imbalance of these hormones are also likely to have trouble sleeping and suffer from feelings of fatigue.
Hormone levels affect the way a woman puts on weight and how much water she retains. Women with low levels of oestrogen may find their breast size decreasing, while women with low progesterone levels may find that their breasts suddenly grow. Too little progesterone may also result in bloating or tender or sore breasts. Weight gain around the hips and abdomen is also common. Too little oestrogen may result in overall weight gain and in fat accumulation around the stomach, giving the body an "apple" shape.
Oestrogen and progesterone are important regulators of libido and sexual function. Too little progesterone or oestrogen is associated with a decreased sex drive, a reduction in vaginal lubrication and increased chances of vaginal infections. These problems can put strain on existing relationships and can affect mood and self-esteem.