Getting to know your hormones

Hormones impact almost everything we do, because they impact our mood, energy, libido, and sleep.  Getting familiar with signs of hormonal changes or signs of hormonal imbalance is an important part of being in touch with your body – hormones don’t only affect us during our periods.

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An entire menstrual cycle lasts roughly 4 weeks.  During your cycle, three main hormones (estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone) rise and fall.

During the first two weeks or so of your cycle, estrogen rises and generally brings positive effects.  You may feel more energetic.  Libido tends to go up due to rising of testosterone.  Around the third week, you may experience the beginning signs of PMS, and in the fourth week your body prepares for menstruation. (Hormonology, 2017).

While it’s great to have an idea of what actually happens in your body during your cycle, remember that we’re all individual!  Perhaps you’ve already read about what happens in a cycle; don’t panic if you don’t experience all telltale symptoms at exactly the week they typically occur.

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Wondering how to tell if you’re experiencing imbalance?  Here are some common signs you may choose to bring up with your doctor:

  • Irregular or absent periods – if you miss a period, it can be due to stress. If you were not trying for pregnancy and tested negative, missing one period usually isn’t something to panic over.  However, some women experience only a few periods per year.  Absent or irregular periods can also be a sign of PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome).
  • Acne – getting breakouts around your period are unfortunately common among a lot of us, but persistent hormonal acne occurs because of excess androgens. If you’re experiencing persistent, unresponsive acne, reach out to your doctor or dermatologist.  Acne doesn’t just affect teens, and the effects of chronic acne aren’t only physical; it can impact your emotional wellbeing and self-esteem.  Don’t hesitate to tell your doctor if your acne makes you feel less confident, less sociable, depressed, or anxious – there are some great acne treatments and hormonal acne treatments out there.
  • Ongoing fatigue – Excess progesterone can be a reason you experience ongoing fatigue. Your doctor may also recommend a blood test to check in on your thyroid.giphy (11).gif

Contraceptives:

Birth control and contraceptives are also related to hormones.  Hormonal birth control methods include birth control pills, hormonal IUDs, and a vaginal ring more commonly known as NuvaRing.  Each of us is unique, and so is your decision about contraceptives.

Perhaps you’ve experienced negative side affects to hormonal contraceptives, or are sensitive to hormonal treatments.  Hormonal IUDs tout great benefits such as lighter periods, extremely high effectiveness (more than 99%), and convenience.  The copper IUD is a great alternative that allows you to use no additional hormones at all.

Hormone Replacement Therapy:

Hormone replacement therapy is often used to help individuals struggling with menopausal symptoms.  It is one of the most effective treatments, because it replaces hormones your body no longer makes.  Hormone replacement therapy is also used for individuals transitioning from male to female or female to male.

The rate of change can vary depending on genetics, or the age you begin treatment (UCSF Transgender Care), and includes physical, sexual, and possibly emotional changes.  Speak to a doctor you trust as you explore options and important details such as your medical history.

 

 

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