Your endocrine system is responsible for producing your body’s messengers, also known as your hormones. Hormones help control various processes occurring in your body while ensuring your bodily functions remain in balance.
However, due to various reasons, some of your hormone levels may fluctuate, which leads to a condition known as hormonal imbalance. This imbalance can occur in anyone but is more prevalent in women.
If your hormones are wreaking havoc, it can bring comfort to know why. Here are six typical causes of hormonal imbalances in women.
Pregnancy comes with no shortage of changes as your body adjusts to supporting new life. It’s during this period that most women will experience dramatic fluctuations in hormone levels.
HPL, HCG, progesterone, and estrogen hormones are vital for pregnant women. HPL and HCG production occurs in the placenta to help prepare your body for pregnancy. Researchers believe that HCG is the hormone responsible for morning sickness in pregnant people.
Similarly, progesterone and estrogen levels rapidly increase during pregnancy. These female hormones’ rise causes gastrointestinal problems, hair growth, and lower blood pressure. It’s not all bad, though–these hormones are also responsible for the glow (healthier skin and hair) that most pregnant women experience.
Medications and hormone drugs
Another common cause of hormonal imbalances in women is medication. Birth control has a big hand in what happens with your hormones.
Some IUDs (intrauterine devices), contraceptive pills, and patches contain hormones that prevent fertilization of the ovum or block ovulation. Thus, it’s advisable to consult your doctor before you start taking any hormonal medication. If you observe the signs of hormonal imbalance such as new skin problems, nausea, or hot flashes, schedule a follow-up appointment.
Legal drugs aren’t the only ones that alter hormone chemistry. MDMA (Methylenedioxymethamphetamine), commonly known as ecstasy, and heroin can cause reversible hormonal imbalances.
The commencement of menopause means your ovaries can no longer synthesize progesterone, testosterone, and estrogen. Hence, your body will have low amounts of these hormones, meaning you can no longer support a menstrual cycle.
When the hormones cease production, you’ll start experiencing menopause symptoms such as:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Vaginal dryness
- Mood swings
- Night sweats
Menopause typically occurs between 45 and 55 years of age, so if you experience menopause symptoms much younger, you may want to see your doctor.
Stress is a leading cause of hormonal imbalance in women. Stress can mean:
- Physical stress as a result of physical discomforts like sleeplessness, pain, or injury
- Emotional stress as a result of pressures at work or in your relationships
- Dietary stress as a result of eating processed foods that cause inflammation
When you’re stressed, your body generates more cortisol. Cortisol can reduce your progesterone levels, leading to a chronic shortage over time.
Sometimes, it can even result in an inflammatory reaction that blocks your progesterone receptors from functioning. As such, your progesterone levels may be sufficient, but the excess cortisol prevents it from working.
The pituitary gland and hypothalamus are brain parts from where all messages that control hormones originate. Unfortunately, when your cortisol levels rise, it affects the working of these messages. Overall, this interferes with the brain’s control of your hormones. If you’re experiencing a lot of stress in your daily life, consider speaking with a counselor or your doctor for solutions.
Poor diet and nutrition
If your eating habits are unhealthy, this may cause hormonal imbalances. Poor diet and malnutrition can result from eating disorders like binge eating, bulimia nervosa, and anorexia nervosa.
These disorders can lead to hormonal imbalances, primarily because they may alter the generation of hormones responsible for regulating digestion and metabolism, pregnancy, fertility, and stress.
Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet can help you prevent problems caused by hormones, and it can also ease symptoms of existing imbalances. Even if your eating isn’t disordered, it never hurts to develop a healthy relationship with food.
PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)
PCOS is a common hormonal disorder in women. It affects women during the child-bearing years of 15 to 44 and specifically targets the ovaries.
Studies show that between 2.2 and 26.7% of women in this age bracket suffer from the condition. One of the side effects is an irregular menstrual cycle with abnormal bleeding.
In addition, women who suffer from PCOS synthesize excessive amounts of male hormones such as testosterone and DHT. This over-synthesis results in hormonal imbalance. Women suffering from PCOS may also suffer infertility or have difficulties getting pregnant.
Other effects of PCOS include:
- Growth of hair on your face and body
- Long-term illnesses such as heart diseases and diabetes
If you’re experiencing one or more of the symptoms above, schedule a visit with your OBGYN.
Other causes of hormonal imbalances in women
While the above are the major causes of hormonal imbalances in women, other common causes include:
- Underactive and overactive thyroid
If your hormone imbalance symptoms interfere with your daily life, you should schedule a visit with your doctor or an endocrinologist.
There are numerous causes for hormonal imbalances in women. If you feel any abnormal changes to your body, it would be best to talk to your doctor. Remember, hormones control most of your body processes, so don’t wait for your symptoms to get worse before you seek help.