Female sex hormones, or sex steroids, play vital roles in sexual development, reproduction, and general health. Sex hormone levels change over time, but some of the most significant changes happen during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. In this article, we discuss the different types of female sex hormones, their roles in the body, and how they affect arousal. Hormones are chemical messengers that the endocrine glands produce and release into the bloodstream.
Understanding the Broad Influence of Sex Hormones and Sex Differences in the Brain
Female sex hormones: Types, roles, and effect on arousal
Estrogens have a variety of effects on both the sexual organs and diverse target tissues. Although they play different roles in normal male and female physiology, they do in some cases have analogous activities in both sexes. Female sexual characteristics: estrogens promote the development of breast tissue and the growth and differentiation of the sexual organs. Men with liver disease who have an excess of estrogen because of the inability of their liver to metabolize it develop gynecomastia, palmar erythema, and spider angiomas. Estrogen expression is responsible for female primary and secondary sexual characteristics. Estradiol promotes epithelial cell proliferation in the uterine endometrium and mammary glands of the breasts.
Estrogens are steroids and are primarily responsible for the conversion of girls into sexually-mature women including:. Estrogens also have non-reproductive effects. For example, they antagonize the effects of the parathyroid hormone , minimizing the loss of calcium from bones and thus helping to keep bones strong. They also promote blood clotting. Progesterone is also a steroid.
Sex hormones act throughout the entire brain of both males and females via both genomic and non-genomic receptors. Sex hormones can act through many cellular and molecular processes that alter structure and function of neural systems and influence behavior as well as providing neuroprotection. Within neurons, sex hormone receptors are found in nuclei and are also located near membranes where they are associated with presynaptic terminals, mitochondria, spine apparatus, post-synaptic densities. Sex hormone receptors also are found in glial cells.