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Progesterone Vs. Estrogen

Progesterone Vs. Estrogen: What You Should Know

Progesterone and estrogen, both, carry out important functions in the body. Here is detailed information about similarities and differences between these hormones.
Madhura Pandit
Last Updated: Mar 5, 2018
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We know that hormones play an important role in the life of human beings. In simplest terms, hormones can be defined as chemicals that are responsible for carrying out various functions in the human body. Progesterone and estrogen are the two most important hormones in the female body. These are steroid hormones that are responsible for various female characteristics in the body. However, there is a lot of difference between these two hormones. Let us take a look at it in detail.
Estrogen and Progesterone
Estrogen, progesterone and testosterone are the three major sex hormones in the female body. They play an important role in the process of the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, etc. in the female body. There is a very delicate balance between the levels of progesterone and estrogen in the body. If this balance is disrupted due to any reason, like menopause, one suffers from side effects. Both, estrogen and progesterone, work together in order to maintain a normal menstrual cycle and pregnancy.
During the process of ovulation, the level of estrogen increases in the body. The level of progesterone rises only when the egg is released. Now, if the egg is fertilized, the woman gets pregnant. Progesterone also prepares the uterus for implantation and also maintains elasticity. Estrogen thickens the endometrium and prepares it for pregnancy. Therefore, we see that both these hormones play an important role in pregnancy.
Now, if fertilization does not occur, the levels of estrogen and progesterone drop, which results in menstruation. Both, progesterone and estrogen, also have a role to play in birth control. A combination birth control pill, which contains both these hormones, is taken so that the levels of these hormones remain high in the body. If the levels of these hormones are high, ovulation does not take place as the 'body' is tricked into believing that you are pregnant. Therefore, the egg is not released and pregnancy is avoided.
Although both these hormones are produced in the ovaries, the Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH) stimulates the production of estrogen; and the Luteinizing Hormone (LH) stimulates that of progesterone. Estrogen creates the proliferative endometrium; whereas progesterone is required for maintaining secretory endometrium. Progesterone is essential for survival of the embryo. On the other hand, estrogen is essential for proper ovulation.
Secondly, another major difference between the two is that their chemical structures are completely different. They work like a teeter totter (see saw) or like a gas pedal and a brake. However, at the same time, it should be noted that the excess of both these hormones leads to several side effects. Excess of estrogen in the body increases the body fat and can cause weight gain. It also leads to other symptoms like depression, headache, fluid retention, etc. These symptoms can be treated by increasing the level of progesterone in the body.
It should also be noted that high levels of hormones in the body, specially in post menopausal phase, can increase the risk of cancer. High levels of estrogen has been found to increase risk of breast and endometrial cancer. secondly, women taking combination birth control pills are also on a high risk for cancer. Therefore, it is essential to maintain a proper balance between the levels of both these hormones.
As a summation of the above, we find that when comparing the two hormones, there are several similarities in their functions. The hormones are required in a proper combination in order to have a healthy menstrual cycle and pregnancy. However, one should remember that it is advisable to consult the doctor before taking any pill or supplement containing hormones, as it can lead to side effects. Take care!