Monday, September 22, 2014

Q&A with Women’s Health Advisor Marla Ahlgrimm: Estrogen and Women's Moods

Marla Ahlgrimm
According to pharmacist Marla Ahlgrimm, estrogen doesn’t just regulate a woman’s menstrual cycle. In fact, estrogen is linked to mood disruptions in women, including premenstrual syndrome and postpartum depression. Here, Ahlgrimm explains the wide range of effects estrogen has on the female body and brain.

Q: What exactly is estrogen and what is its function?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Estrogens are hormones that are important for sexual and reproductive development, particularly in women. Estrogen is produced mainly in the ovaries, but is also produced by fat cells and the adrenal glands.

Q: How does estrogen play a role in women’s mental health?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Estrogen plays a significant role in women’s mental health. Sudden decrease in blood levels contribute to significant mood lowering. After childbirth, nearing menopause and after menopause, low levels of estrogen can also prompt depression.

Q: What is considered a “normal estrogen level”?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Normal estrogen levels can vary widely. Significant differences are typical in a woman on different days, or between two women on the same day of their menstrual cycles. Normal estrogen levels in women prior to menopause range from 50 pg/mL to 400 pg/mL.

Q: Do estrogen levels change significantly over the years?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Oh, yes. Estrogen levels naturally increase during puberty, and also during pregnancy. However, estrogen levels start to decline in middle age or when a woman stops menstruating.

Q: What are the effects of this decline?

Marla Ahlgrimm: A decline in estrogen production can cause symptoms such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness and loss of sex drive.

Q: What is the most common use of synthetic estrogen?

Marla Ahlgrimm: The most common and notable use of estrogen is as birth control pills or contraceptives and as hormone replacement therapy.

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