Estrogen is a hormone that is essential for the growth and development of the female body. Estrogen leads to many of the changes that female bodies undergo at puberty, like the growth of breasts, the maturation of the reproductive system, and the beginning of menstruation.
Estrogen is produced by the ovaries, but small amounts are also produced by the adrenal gland located on top of the kidneys. This key hormone causes the physical differences between a male and a female, including:
- Produces an environment in the uterus that allows for fertilization and implantation of the fertilized egg during each menstrual cycle.
- Provides nutrition for the early embryo.
- Relaxes the pelvic ligaments, leading to a wider pelvis that makes it easier for the female to conceive and hold a pregnancy for nine months.
- Stimulates the growth of the egg follicle in the ovary.
- Stimulates the growth of the vagina
- Increases vaginal acidity, which lowers the risk of bacterial infections.
- Secretes natural lubrication.
- Stimulates the growth of the uterus and fallopian tubes and is involved in breast development and milk production.
- Responsible for more permanent hair on the scalp in females.
- Promotes bone growth.
- Plays an important role in the modulation of mood.
Estrogen’s Role in Hormonal Birth Control
Since estrogen is the most important hormone involved in ovulation, it is one of the hormones targeted by certain forms of birth control. Combination hormonal birth control methods prevent pregnancy by managing the body’s levels of progesterone and estrogen. Estrogen levels are typically at their peak during ovulation, but when a woman uses hormonal birth control, her estrogen levels remain constant. This helps prevent ovulation, without which there can be no pregnancy.