Carmen Lorenzana - Key hormones in the menstrual cycle

What makes you cyclical?

Your reproductive hormones!

There are five hormones involved in the menstrual cycle (ok, there are more than a dozen, but five of them rule the game). Each one has a different behavior, and its levels vary throughout the process, triggering different reactions in your body. The four phases of the cycle are created depending on the amount of each hormone present at any given time.

In this post, I will briefly tell you which are the five key hormones in the menstrual cycle and their most basic functions:

1) Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)

Your pituitary gland releases this hormone during the follicular phase. Its function is to stimulate the maturation of one of the ovarian follicles (i.e., tiny sacs or “bags” that contain small immature eggs, called oocytes), in preparation to ovulate.

Carmen Lorenzana - Key hormones in the menstrual cycle

2) Estrogen

Estradiol is a type of estrogen produced mainly in the ovaries and some fatty tissues. Some of its most important tasks are to:

  • prepare the ovarian follicle to release the egg into the fallopian tubes,
  • stimulate the growth of the endometrium, preparing it to receive a baby,
  • stimulate the production of cervical mucus to make fertilization easier,
  • give you young and healthy skin, hair, and bones,
  • stimulate the left side of the brain for better logic, increased memory, more focus, and so on,
  • boost serotonin. 

Fun Fact: In addition to estradiol, your body produces other types of estrogen. According to Dr. Lara Briden, author of the book Period Repair Manual, you also get estrogen from fat tissue and intestinal bacteria.

Carmen Lorenzana - Key hormones in the menstrual cycle

3) Luteinizing hormone (LH)

This hormone is also secreted by the pituitary gland at the end of the follicular phase. When it’s released, it causes the biggest (or more mature) ovarian follicle to break and release an egg into the fallopian tubes, waiting to meet a sperm that fertilizes it. In addition, the LH hormone transforms the empty follicle into a gland called corpus luteum, which will be responsible for producing progesterone.

Carmen Lorenzana - Key hormones in the menstrual cycle

4) Progesterone

Progesterone is produced in the ovaries after ovulation. It helps to maintain and nourish a possible pregnancy (hence its name: pro-gestation). It increases during the second half of the cycle. If there is no fertilization, it drops, triggering your period.

Progesterone is the most important hormone when it comes to menstrual health. In addition to helping a possible pregnancy, it also:

  • reduces inflammation in the body,
  • helps to build muscles,
  • promotes sleep,
  • prevents cardiovascular diseases,
  • calms the nervous system and enables you to cope with stress, among other things.
Carmen Lorenzana - Key hormones in the menstrual cycle

5) Testosterone

Women and people with periods also have testosterone but in small amounts. It’s produced in the ovaries and the adrenal glands, and its main job is to stimulate your libido. It also increases motivation and helps you maintain muscle mass and strong bones.

Carmen Lorenzana - Key hormones in the menstrual cycle
New to Menstrual Cycle Awareness and not sure where to start? Download my free guide with 3 simple steps to get to know your cycle.

New to Menstrual Cycle Awareness and not sure where to start?

Download my free guide with 3 simple steps to get to know your cycle.

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