Before answering the question “what does estrogen do?” I’ll first briefly go over exactly what estrogen is. Estrogen is a hormone produced primarily by the ovaries, and in smaller amounts by the adrenal cortex, fat cells, the testicles, and the placenta. While estrogen is known as the female hormone, it is actually present and necessary for health in both genders.
Now, what does estrogen do? It plays a vital role in the development and growth of secondary female characteristics such as breasts, regulation of the menstrual cycle, and regulation of the reproductive system and fertility. Estrogen is responsible for producing an environment suitable for fertilization, implantation, and nutrition of the early embryo during the menstrual cycle. It also strengthens bone, protects blood vessels from forming plaque and arteriosclerosis, improves brain function, enhances collagen content to maintain skin elasticity and improves blood sugar control and insulin resistance. If blood sugar and/or insulin resistance are high, weight gain and metabolic syndrome are likely to occur.
Remember, estrogen is also present in males, but what exactly does estrogen do in males? It assists in maturation of sperm and plays a role in male reproduction. Aspects of the development of males during puberty is mediated in part by estrogen, such as the growth of the long bones, their mineralization and epiphyseal closure, that is closing the growth plates in bones so they eventually stop growing. It also plays a role in memory.
While estrogen is present in males, when answering the question “what does estrogen do?” I will be primarily focusing on what it does in the female body. That’s what I will go over in more detail throughout this article.
What Does Estrogen Do In Females?
Estrogen is critical to the female menstrual cycle and plays a key role in the ability to bear children. Here is a full overview of what estrogen does in the female body.
Estrogen has the following effects on the female reproductive system:
- Estrogen helps stimulate growth of the egg follicle in the ovaries.
- Estrogen helps stimulate the growth of the vagina to its adult size. This includes thickening the vaginal wall, and increasing vaginal acidity that reduces bacterial infections.
- Estrogen is responsible for developing a thick muscular wall in the fallopian tubes and for the contractions that transport the egg and sperm cells.
- Estrogen enhances and maintains the endometrium in the uterus, as well as the mucous membrane that lines the uterus. It also stimulates the muscles in the uterus, causing them to develop and contract. Those contractions allow the uterine wall to expel dead tissue during menstruation and during the delivery of a child and placenta.
- In the cervix, estrogen regulates the flow and thickness of the uterine mucous secretions to enhance sperm transport.
- Estrogen is responsible for the development of breasts, and the cessation of the flow of milk.
What does estrogen do in terms of how it affects other hormones? It is responsible for an increase in cortisol and sex hormone binding globulin, as well as an increase in melanin and pheomelanin, and a reduction in eumelanin. It makes cells more sensitive to insulin and increases cortisol.
Estrogen also help to regulate parts of the brain responsible for the preparing the the body for sexual and reproductive development. It also increases serotonin and the number of serotonin receptors in the brain, which is why you may experience a depressed mood if your estrogen levels are low. It maintains bone density, cognitive function and memory, lowers cholesterol and prevents plaque from forming on blood vessels. Estrogen may lower the risk of obesity by controlling blood sugar and insulin sensitivity. Another positive benefit of estrogen is that it increases skin thickness and improves blood supply to the skin.
If you feel I haven’t completely answered the question “what does estrogen do?”, please leave a comment below and I will be sure to get back to you!