Female Hormones And Their Effects On The Body
This article takes a brief look at how female hormones affect the body and change it. The sex hormones (both female and male) affect human development even from before birth. Male hormones are classified as androgens, while female hormones are classified as estrogens. There is also a third class of hormones that females have called progestins, which comes into play during pregnancy.
From Birth On
Once an embryo is in the womb, it is the hormones that influence whether or not it becomes male or female based on secondary sexual characteristics. There actually have been cases where people who are outwardly females possess the XY chromosomes of a genetic male. This shows how extreme the effect of female hormones can be.
Ordinarily, estrogen and testosterone shape the male and female bodies during puberty, which causes those aforementioned secondary sexual characteristics such as breasts on the female to develop. The progestin known as progesterone influences the menstrual cycle in females.
Progesterone levels are normally fairly low, in line with the regular level of progesterone produced by males (5 mg per day at most). That level increases four-fold or six-fold during the pre-menstrual period and can cause PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome) depending on the female, which can cause severe mood swings and physical discomfort from bloating and so forth.
Interestingly, these very hormones are used in birth control pills and other forms of birth control such as Depo-Provera. Once a female reaches menopause, estrogen production drops and leaves a woman susceptible to a host of problems such as osteoporosis and other age-related diseases.
Changing The Sexes
One of the more unusual applications of sex hormones is their use in switching genders for transsexuals. Although hormones can affect development in the womb as mentioned earlier, it's certainly a different process if someone actively seeks to change their sex after birth.
Needless to say, the injection of female hormones is part of the process for those transsexuals seeking a male-to-female sex-change operation. The entire process involves extensive plastic surgery that usually includes electrolysis to remove hair, procedures that feminize masculine features, and (of course) major transformation of the genitalia.
For an interesting look at the transsexual issues and the process of changing genders, you might try checking the Discovery Health Channel for one of its programs on sex-reassignment surgery for an interesting look at the effects of hormones on the body.