From puberty through menopause, it can feel as if your hormones are always fluctuating. And in truth, thanks to factors like sleep, digestion, and stress, they are indeed surging and dropping every day.
But in addition to these normal fluctuations, changes like pregnancy and aging can also alter hormone levels significantly, leading to noticeable (and often frustrating) symptoms. In honor of National Women’s Day on August 9th, here’s what you should know about how hormonal changes can affect you.
Hormones in Your Body
Hormones are the chemicals in your body produced by glands in your endocrine system. Once they’re released into your bloodstream, they act as messengers to regulate functions throughout your body, eliciting specific reactions to maintain your health. The endocrine system produces at least 50 known hormones, but estrogen and progesterone are two specific to women that change significantly throughout your lifespan and lead to the most noteworthy symptoms.
How Hormones Change with Age
Many phases of a woman’s life are defined by hormone levels. For example, hormones are responsible for regulating your menstrual cycle, starting during puberty and ending once you go through menopause.
Each cycle, your hormones can trigger a host of uncomfortable symptoms that fall under the umbrella term premenstrual syndrome (PMS), including anxiety, bloating, constipation, headaches, mood changes, and cramping. Hormone levels also manifest in pronounced changes during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause.
Hormone Imbalances Signs & Causes
“With so many hormones in your body and so many important jobs for them to do, it’s possible that something can go awry with these generally friendly chemical messengers,” says Dr. Obiamaka Mora. The potential causes for these changes span far and wide, from autoimmune conditions to stress and certain medications.
A hormonal imbalance is diagnosed when there’s too little or too much of a specific hormone present. Even a minor variation in levels can produce symptoms. For example, you could have a hormone imbalance if you have:
- Irregular periods
- Brain fog
- Gastrointestinal distress
- Mood changes
- Vaginal dryness
- Changes in libido
- Weight fluctuations
There are many other possible symptoms that may indicate a hormonal imbalance, however. Some of these are temporary — such as those experienced during pregnancy and menopause — while others are chronic. The good news is that no matter the root cause, there are ways to control the effects of hormone changes, and your gynecologist can aid you in getting to the bottom of the issue.
Navigating Hormonal Changes
Identifying the best way to address the symptoms of your hormonal changes will depend on several factors, including their root cause and severity. For example, when it comes to treating PMS, lifestyle changes like stress management and taking supplemental vitamins could be enough to manage your hormone fluctuations effectively. For more severe symptoms, prescription medications like hormonal birth control or antidepressants may be in order.
In all of these cases, collaborating with your gynecologist can help find solutions. But addressing hormone changes during pregnancy especially calls for direct involvement with your obstetrician, as it’s important to make sure any treatments you pursue are safe for you and your growing baby. Eating well, getting regular exercise and ample sleep, plus stress reducing measures like massage and yoga can help manage both the physical and emotional toll of hormone changes during pregnancy.
Menopause can trigger an especially difficult range of symptoms. During this natural stage of life, your ovaries stop producing most of their estrogen, which not only ceases your menstrual cycle but can lead to issues like vaginal dryness, breast tenderness, night sweats, sleep challenges, and hot flashes, to name a few.
Sometimes, treating symptoms individually can be effective. Using a lubricant can prevent uncomfortable sex, for instance, while therapy and other stress relieving tactics can help with mood changes. But if menopause begins to negatively impact your overall quality of life, there’s no need to suffer through. Your gynecologist can discuss treatment to control your symptoms and deliver relief.
If you’re concerned about a possible hormone imbalance, allow our compassionate team to help. Our providers can discuss symptoms and individualized approaches to help you feel your best, so schedule an appointment online or call us directly at 404-352-2850.