Tag Archives: Reproductive Health

Low Estrogen: What It Means and What Symptoms to Look For

Low Estrogen: What It Means and What Symptoms to Look For

Estrogen plays a significant role in a woman’s life. Estrogen contributes to reproductive health as well as regulating aging. Most women understand that estrogen levels usually decrease during perimenopause or menopause, a sign that they are leaving the childbearing years behind.

Sometimes, it can happen early, such as when a woman over-exercises on a regular basis (exercise addiction), or she suffers from an eating disorder like anorexia, and her body can no longer maintain estrogen levels.

Decreasing estrogen levels, although considered a normal part of menopause, may cause adverse effects to a woman’s body and her health.

Estrogen in the Body

Estrogen is most notably responsible for the sexual development of girls during puberty. These levels of estrogen fluctuate throughout a woman’s lifetime up until menopause, when low levels of estrogen completely prevent menstruation and ovulation.

Estrogen also regulates:

  • Changes in breast tissue during adolescence and pregnancy
  • Menstrual cycles
  • Body weight, by helping control metabolism
  • Development and growth of healthy bone tissue
  • Healthy cardiovascular activity

With so many effects on various parts of the body, it is important that estrogen levels maintain a healthy standard. Low estrogen levels can be a sign of age, but seriously low levels can have lasting negative effects.

Causes for Concern

Any condition that impairs the ovaries can reduce estrogen production. The most common risk factor for women is age. As women age, perimenopause and menopause cause the body to produce less estrogen. Estrogen levels can also decrease for various other reasons, including:

  • Premature ovarian failure
  • Congenital conditions: Turner syndrome
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Excessive exercise
  • Being severely under or overweight
  • Chemotherapy
  • Low functioning pituitary gland

Other unique cases can include excessive exercising and eating disorders such as anorexia. If a woman is more than 15 percent underweight, the body can no longer maintain normal estrogen levels. In order to maintain healthy levels of estrogen, a woman should maintain a healthy diet, lifestyle, and weight.

Physical Symptoms of Low Estrogen

Effects and Symptoms

As women approach the age of 40, they may wonder what symptoms to look for that herald decreasing levels of estrogen. Estrogen depletion can bring on a combination of hormonal and biochemical fluctuations that can lead to changes in the brain and nervous system.

Irregular Periods

Estrogen is the critical hormone in regulating a woman’s period and menstrual cycle. Low estrogen levels can cause irregular periods, including shorter or longer periods, light or heavier flow, spotting, or missed periods altogether.

Infertility

Low estrogen directly affects ovulation. Without estrogen, ovulation will not occur making it difficult to become pregnant. This is considered infertility.

Hot Flashes and Night Sweats

The most common symptoms and probably the least liked, hot flashes and night sweats can go on for a long time: 7 to 11 years. They are caused by the hypothalamus which controls body temperature. When estrogen levels start going down, the hypothalamus can no longer regulate body temperature and even the slightest change can cause hot flashes or night sweats to bring the temperature down, or chills to bring it back up.

Insomnia and Fatigue

Estrogen produces serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain that triggers melatonin, a hormone that helps a person sleep. Once a woman goes into menopause, the depleted estrogen levels produce less serotonin and by extension, less melatonin. With the night sweats that interrupt sleep, fatigue and insomnia become the new normal.

Mood Swings

Hormonal imbalances, that often make teenagers moody and difficult, are back during menopause, making women grumpy. Add lack of sleep and it can get worse. Mood swings – laughing, crying, anger and upset – at the drop of a hat – are all part of the package.

Depression and Difficulty Focusing

Serotonin also affects mood and social behavior, as well as memory, sexual desire and function.  With lowered serotonin levels, depression, not just mood swings, can occur and it becomes more difficult to recover from it. Memory lapses and trouble focusing or concentrating are two more symptoms of low estrogen and serotonin levels. Some experts believe that they put women at a greater risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Physical Symptoms of Low Estrogen

The brain and nervous system are not the only parts of a woman that are affected by menopause and lowered estrogen levels. Of course, the reproductive system’s ability decreases with age as ovary function and estrogen levels go down. But the skin, heart, bones and urinary systems are also affected.

Dry Everything and Low Sexual Desire

Dry skin, dry eyes and a dry vagina are more signs of menopause and low estrogen levels. These can be allayed with moisturizing fluids, such as lotion, eye drops and lubricant (in that order). Unfortunately, reduced sexual desire comes from decreased estrogen and serotonin levels. Menopause also makes the vaginal walls thinner and they lose elasticity, coupled with vaginal dryness, sex can be painful.

The skin loses its moisture-holding abilities as well as its elasticity, leading to dryness, itching, and an increase in wrinkling and sagging. Also, it becomes more susceptible to injury, such as bruising, due to thinning of the skin and it doesn’t heal as quickly. Researchers are beginning to study the lack of estrogen as a possible connection to melanoma, a serious type of skin cancer.

The Heart Connection

As women get older, they become more vulnerable to cardiovascular issues, such as heart attacks, strokes, or other heart-related problems. Hypertension, or high blood pressure is the biggest cardiovascular risk for women in and after menopause. Normally estrogen increases levels of nitric oxide, which is a very powerful dilator of blood vessels, and dilated blood vessels are conducive to healthy blood pressure.

Lowered estrogen levels make hypertension an increasingly bigger factor in women.

Though this may not start until just before perimenopause, it can quickly increase until about age 60, when the new level of blood pressure stabilizes to a new norm.

The Beautiful Bones

After the age of 30, new bone production cannot keep up with bone loss and once menopause hits and estrogen levels decrease, women have an increased risk for low bone mineral density, osteopenia and osteoporosis. This bone density loss can lead to weakening of the bones and an increased risk for fractures and other injuries.

The Urinary System

No laughing matter, incontinence is one of the signs of decreased estrogen levels. Just as with the vaginal walls, the reduced levels of estrogen cause the urethra walls to thin, dry and lose elasticity. This causes the incontinence when coughing, laughing, sneezing or lifting heavy objects. It also leads to feeling the need for frequent urination and an increased risk for developing UTIs.

Weight Gain

Estrogen plays a significant role in weight management and how the body stores fat. During perimenopause and menopause low estrogen contributes to weight gain. Specifically women store more fat in their thighs and hips, which can change during menopause. Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly can help combat weight gain with low estrogen levels.

Diagnosis and Treatment for Low Estrogen

If any of the above-noted symptoms appear, the first step is to get a physical exam by a trusted physician who can review your medical history and symptoms. It may be necessary to do a blood test to check hormone levels. The doctor may also recommend additional tests to rule out other conditions that might be causing symptoms similar to low estrogen.

Synthetic Hormone Treatment

Hormone Replacement Therapy or HRT is sometimes recommended for women who do not have high blood pressure or other cardiovascular problems. There are various types of HRTs available, including one that combines estrogen with progesterone, a hormone that maintains pregnancy. There are side effects that need to be considered, but these can be discussed with a doctor, to determine which HRT is best.

Sometimes all that is needed are serotonin-boosting antidepressants for those women who end up suffering from depression more than the other symptoms.

Estrogen Therapy

Estrogen therapy is recommended by a doctor or medical expert. In some cases, small amounts of estrogen can be used to combat those who have had small changes in their estrogen levels, such as women who have had their ovaries removed. In other instances, estrogen therapy may be used to treat certain symptoms of perimenopause and menopause.

Natural Treatments

Natural remedies include natural food and soy supplements, maintaining a healthy weight and, in some cases, decreasing the intensity or frequency of exercise. Soy or soybean isoflavones are, at best, an alternative treatment for HRT, and at worst, a controversial treatment with increased risk for breast cancer. It’s best to speak to your doctor or healthcare professional before adding this or any supplement to your diet.

Exercise and eating foods rich in calcium and adding vitamin D supplements during and after menopause is a good way to maintain and increase bone density. Low-fat milk, cheese and dairy products, green leafy vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and okra, as well as soybeans and soy products such as tofu, are great for getting the extra calcium needed. It is important to remember that exercise must also be sufficient, but not excessive. Too much exercise and too little body fat can further decrease levels of estrogen.

Estrogen Overview

Reduced estrogen levels can cause many problems for women, including an increased risk of serious conditions, including heart disease, osteoporosis (softening of bone tissue), and obesity.  However there are ways to lessen the symptoms and the impact of lower estrogen levels to a woman’s overall wellbeing, including her physical, emotional, and sexual health.

The sooner a woman can be screened for low estrogen levels, the better chance she has at combatting the negative effects listed above. AZGYN’s Gynecology Services and Minimally Invasive Procedures can be the solution for many women. They provide an assortment of general health practices and specialized services by expert staff and surgeons. If you are a woman and suspect you have low estrogen levels, contact AZ Gyn today.

Skills Every Girl Should Know By 13

Skills Every Girl Should Know By 13

Puberty entails a host of physical and psychological changes. By the time most girls reach the age of 13, they are at one of the most pivotal phases of their personal development physically, mentally, and socially. Parents should take time during this important developmental stage to ensure their daughters know a few key skills for navigating the world as adults, especially when it comes to having self-respect and acquiring and maintaining an individual sense of self-worth.

Seven Skills Every Daughter Should Know

For many teenage girls, self-love can feel like a foreign concept. Constant bombardment from mass media telling girls how to look, act, and feel can create preconceived notions of womanhood that become increasingly difficult to break with age. Cultivating self-esteem is challenging for countless young people, but girls tend to experience social pressures that influence self-esteem more acutely than boys of the same age. Women should help their daughters learn a few key skills to help them flourish as adults.

 

Learning To Respect And Express Feelings

Repressed or mismanaged emotions can create significant challenges later in life. Young women often struggle with acknowledging and expressing certain feelings, and it is essential for parents to encourage respect and expression of the full spectrum of human emotions, not just the positive ones. Everyone encounters negative influences and tragedy in some form, and learning to process negative feelings is an essential part of cultivating a healthy adulthood.

 

Understand And Practice Self-Compassion

7 Skills To Teach Your Daughter By age 13For many 13-year-old girls, self-respect may seem like a difficult concept to fully grasp let alone put into practice. There is tremendous social pressure on young girls to please others, often at the expense of one’s own time, resources, and energy. Girls who learn to focus on pleasing others at their own expense often experience difficulties with self-care later in life. A life that revolves solely around making others happy is neither tenable nor healthy in the long run.

Self-compassion and self-respect are skills that require nurturing until an individual can put them into daily practice. Self-respect does not only apply to practicing self-care and valuing one’s own place in the world, but also refusing to accept disrespect from others. Girls who learn self-compassion early have a better chance of avoiding exploitative or abusive relationships.

 

Develop A Positive Body Image

Media portrays female beauty in some troublesome ways, and regardless of personal interpretations of the influence of media on adolescents, the media young girls consume ultimately shapes their worldviews. Parents can help their daughters overcome this by teaching them about their bodies and encouraging self-love from a young age. Girls often struggle with questions about sexuality and female health during puberty, and parents are in the best position to help them develop a strong personal body image and self-respect.

There is no “correct” way to look, despite what the media may portray that indicates otherwise. Parents should help their daughters recognize that it is okay for a girl to be different and perfectly acceptable to fall outside the realm of normalized beauty standards as long as she lives an authentic life and realizes that she is capable of anything as long as she is willing to do the necessary work.

 

Learn From Friendships

Parents should help their daughters recognize that their friendships should be models for what healthy relationships look like in the future. Young girls often develop strong friendships in the puberty years, and parents should help them understand ideas like conflict resolution, honest communication, and learning how to assert themselves in difficult situations. For female adolescents, self-empowerment is best learned through personal relationships and learning how to tell the difference between positive influences and negative ones.

 

Understand Feminine Health

Puberty entails a host of physical changes, and this can be a confusing and alienating time for girls around 13. Parents should make it a point to ensure their daughters know to ask questions and speak freely about the changes they experience, what they mean, and how to manage them effectively. Women generally undergo more regular medical screenings than men and at younger ages, and parents should do their best to prepare their daughters for the feminine health issues they will inevitably encounter.

 

Learn The Power Of Saying No

Consent is a crucial subject all parents need to discuss with their daughters. Practicing self-compassion extends to far more than ensuring time and energy to oneself; it also means knowing how to handle potentially dangerous situations. Puberty and adolescence generally involves most youths’ first sexual experiences, first romances, and the blossoming of friendships that can last for years or even a lifetime. Learning how to say no is a crucial skill for any young woman, and parents can start teaching their daughters the power of “no” at a very young age.

Practice Self-Care With Daily Habits

The habits young people learn in their formative years shape their daily lives for years to come. Those habits become difficult to break, so cultivating healthy ones as early as possible leads to the best results. Parents should take time to teach their daughters how to respect food, how to exercise appropriately, and how to practice self-care at a fundamental level with proper daily nutrition, adequate rest, and consistent exercise.

Putting These Lessons Into Practice

These skills will not only help young women cultivate self-respect and navigate difficult social situations but also empower young girls at one of the most important times of their lives. By age 13, a young girl has already shaped a great deal of her worldview and self-image, and the changes that come with puberty may be difficult but they also present a tremendous opportunity to lay the groundwork for a life of high self-esteem, healthy daily habits, and stronger, healthier personal relationships.

Is Heavy Uterine Bleeding Serious And A Sign For Surgery

Is Heavy Uterine Bleeding Serious And A Sign For Surgery?

Menstrual periods vary from person to person. While one woman’s period can be light and short, others can experience a heavy menstrual cycle full of cramps, back pain, and emotional turmoil. Most of these are not a cause for alarm; however, you might wonder if an extremely heavy flow is. Sometimes, the answer is yes.

While not all heavy flows are a symptom of an underlying health condition, there are certain signs that you should not ignore.

Common Causes Of A Heavy Menstrual Period

Women are all made differently, and periods can change from month to month. Diet, genetics, sexual habits, birth control methods, and many other factors can change the flow of your period. However, there are a few common causes of heavy uterine bleeding that are not related to your daily life and may need medical intervention. A few possible causes are:

  • Hormone imbalance, such as PCOS
  • Pregnancy complications, such as miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy
  • Endometriosis and adenomyosis
  • Genetic bleeding disorders
  • Ovarian dysfunction
  • Fibroids or polyps in the uterus
  • Intrauterine devices
  • Uterine or cervical cancer

Menorrhagia is the medical term for abnormally heavy menstrual bleeding. Medical professionals define abnormal bleeding as any amount of period blood over 80 milliliters – typically about 16 tampons. Symptoms of menorrhagia include:

  • Heavy menstrual bleeding for longer than one week
  • Menstrual clotting with clots larger than a quarter
  • Anemia symptoms, including fatigue and shortness of breath

Usually, women with menorrhagia have to change their menstrual pads or tampons multiple times a day because the blood soaks through the products so quickly. Some women have to double up on their pads to ensure no blood seeps through them. Others might need to wake up during the night to change their pad or tampon. Their periods may even restrict their daily activities because of their heavy flow.

How To Treat An Abnormally Heavy Flow

Treatment for menorrhagia is based on a number of factors, including your lifestyle, your plans to bear children, your reaction to medications, and your overall health. Doctors treat menorrhagia through medications, surgery, and other procedures.

When you visit a doctor for menorrhagia, they will ask you about your menstrual cycles, medical history, and family background. They may also take a blood sample, an ultrasound, a Pap smear, or a biopsy to determine the cause of the heavy flow.

After your initial intake, the doctor can recommend a number of treatments:

  • Medications such as ibuprofen to relieve pain, oral contraceptives to regulate your cycle, and tranexamic acid to relieve bleeding
  • A hormonal IUD to reduce your uterine lining
  • Progesterone to fix a hormonal imbalance
  • Various surgical procedures

Risks Of Heavy Uterine Bleeding

There are certain symptoms associated with heavy uterine bleeding that you should never ignore. These symptoms can develop into potentially dangerous conditions.

You should seek medical attention for menorrhagia and heavy uterine bleeding if:

  • You experience any vaginal bleeding after menopause
  • You soak through at least one pad or tampon per hour
  • You bleed between periods
  • You experience any other form of irregular vaginal bleeding

Prolonged menstrual bleeding can lead to the development of anemia. When you bleed such a heavy amount, you’re losing vital red blood cells. When you lose these cells, your body uses up iron to make hemoglobin, a protein that helps blood cells carry oxygen through your body. However, this decreases your iron levels, increasing your risk of developing anemia.

Symptoms of anemia include:

  • Fatigue
  • Pale skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Unusually rapid heart rate

The symptoms of anemia alone are enough to cause difficulty in your daily life. Anemia can also lead to severe organ damage because the condition reduces the amount of oxygen that your body receives. Heart damage is especially common, since your heart will need to work harder to make up for your low red blood cell count. Pregnant women with anemia are at risk of premature birth, miscarriage, and low birth weight.

Surgery For Heavy Uterine Bleeding

If heavy menstruation is affecting your daily life, talk to your doctor. Menorrhagia surgery may be a way to transform this difficulty. Doctors may consider surgery depending on a few factors, including the severity of your condition. If you have a fear of surgical procedures, consider visiting Arizona Gynecology Consultants to find an alternative, noninvasive treatment for your condition.

Common menorrhagia surgeries include:

  • Focused ultrasound surgery, which treats bleeding from fibroids
  • Hysterectomy, which removes the uterus and cervix
  • Myomectomy, which removes fibroids
  • Uterine artery embolization, which shrinks fibroids by cutting off blood supply
  • Dilation and curettage, endometrial resection, and endometrial ablation, which all remove the uterine lining

Call Arizona Gynecology Consultants For Advice

Contact Arizona Gynecology Consultants today to discuss whether your heavy menstrual flow is a cause for concern. Our compassionate staff can schedule an appointment and offer advice on the best way to negotiate uterine bleeding until you see a physician.

What Is a Prolapsed Bladder and How Do I Treat It

What Is a Prolapsed Bladder and How Do I Treat It?

Many women after having children, going through hysterectomy, or undergoing the aging process experience symptoms that are not only uncomfortable but embarrassing. There are products available that can help alleviate the humiliation, such as adhesive strip underwear pads, panties or disposable underwear. But those can be costly over time and put a damper on style and spontaneity. If you think you could be suffering from what is called a prolapsed bladder or cystocele, there are ways to help minimize the symptoms and possibly reverse the condition, noninvasively.

The Physical Attributes of Cystocele

With cystocele it can feel as though your bladder is dropping. In a sense, it is. The bladder itself is a muscular-like organ, hollow, that resembles a balloon, expanding and retracting depending on the level of urine present. When a woman gets the urge to empty the bladder, urine flows from the bladder downward through the urethra and ultimately out of the body. The bladder is located in close proximity to other parts of the reproductive system, in the middle of both pelvic bones. Positioned alongside the urethra is the vagina, the connection point between the uterus and the outside. When prolapse happens, the bladder drops from its original position and protrudes into the vagina. As ominous as this may sound, many women who have the condition don’t know it.

Symptoms of a Prolapsed Bladder

There are many ways that the body provides an indication that a prolapsed bladder exists. Each woman is different and all symptoms don’t need to be met to have the condition.

Prolapsed Bladder Symptoms:

  • Frequent urination
  • Sensation of needing to urinate often
  • Bladder leakage from pressure put on the area (or from coughing, sneezing, laughing)
  • Partial voiding, when urine remains in the bladder
  • Increase in bladder infections
  • Pain in the lower back or pelvic area
  • Feeling of heaviness, fullness, or droopiness in pelvic area
  • Bladder coming through the vagina
  • Difficulty when inserting vaginal applicators and tampons

After you’ve gone through the above list and identified which symptoms resonate with your day-to-day, find details below that indicate the various stages of prolapsed bladder.

Stages of a Prolapsed Bladder

Depending on how extensive the bladder has dropped, the options in how best to treat the condition will be discussed and a treatment protocol will be determined. A visit with your Ob/Gyn or other healthcare practitioner will uncover the specific stage of prolapse.

Prolapsed Bladder Staging

  • Stage 1 – Mild condition, bladder has slightly extended into the vagina.
  • Stage 2 – Moderate condition, bladder has dropped to the vagina opening.
  • Stage 3 – Severe condition, bladder protrudes through the opening of the vagina.

Based on the type of symptoms, a doctor may want to insert a catheter through the urethra to measure how much urine is left in the bladder after voiding: this is termed postvoid residual. Other ways to examine the status of the bladder are through a bladder ultrasound using a transducer (creates sound waves for imaging) or an x-ray exam of the bladder, known as a cystourethrogram, that is done while a woman is urinating. The procedure does not require anesthesia though sedation is often an option.

If you are one of the many women experiencing any stage of bladder prolapse, it may come by you honestly.

Why Does the Female Bladder Drop Over Time?

Genetics do play a role in a woman’s predisposition to prolapsed bladder. In addition, hormones can also create the basis for its development. As we age, our natural levels of estrogen drop often compromising the vagina as estrogen strengthens the muscles that support it. Over time, the vagina weakens, and by the way of gravity, begins to fall. A repercussion to hysterectomy (partial and full) is the development of a prolapsed bladder. The National Institute of Health (NIH) studied the effects of hysterectomy on the female bladder and found a correlation. After these procedures, women will engage an immediate drop in estrogen production, which is often why some elect to include hormone therapy to their lives. However, this course of action may not circumvent the state of the bladder.

Other aspects of life may lead to a fallen bladder.

Prolapsed Bladder Causes

  • Excessive coughing
  • Physical activity that strains pelvic area
  • Vaginal births
  • Constipation and pushing through bowel movements
  • Obesity*

*While obesity can predicate a fallen bladder, diet or specific nutrition is not directly linked to the condition.

Options in Treating Prolapsed Bladder

The stage of prolapsed bladder will often dictate the treatment choices available to the patient. The good news is that for many women, certain exercises will not only prevent prolapse but can do much to reverse the condition.

For women who have severe prolapse, surgery may be necessary to lift the bladder away from the vagina and reconstruct the vaginal wall to adequately support the bladder. A surgeon, usually a urologist or Ob/Gyn will tighten the tissue that surrounds these organs. The post-op for the surgery is between 4 to 6 weeks.

For moderate bladder prolapse, patients can be offered a vaginal pessary that is inserted into the vagina. The small device comes in a myriad of sizes to fit each woman as needed, keeping the bladder in place while providing the vaginal wall the support required, preventing further damage.

Exercise, will often be the panacea for women who are amidst early-stage bladder prolapse and also serves as a continual strength builder for the treatment and prevention of this condition. Here are some ways to add bladder health to your everyday regimen.

Kegel A Falling Bladder Back into Place

A kegel a day keeps the bladder at bay

Strangely enough, there’s an exercise that can be done in the comfort of your car, your office or while sitting at the dinner table and no one will ever know you’re doing it. The exercise is called the kegel and it isn’t just for pregnancy. Men can find benefit from it too.

Meant to increase the strength of the vaginal wall and the ability to gain control over bladder control, kegeling can change your life for the better. The key to a proper kegel is to discern which pelvic muscles apply and to perform this exercise ritual faithfully up to 3 or 4 sessions a day for maximum benefit.

How to Kegel:

  1. Squeeze the genital muscles as if pulling them up from the inside.
  2. Each squeeze, should be able to (if desired) stop the flow of urine.
  3. Hold the squeeze for 3 full seconds.
  4. Release the squeeze.
  5. Repeat.
  6. Begin the exercise and complete 10 successions, to reach a total of 25 per day.

There is no reason to live with the discomfort and humiliation of a prolapsed bladder and its associated symptoms. Start kegeling. Seek a medical practitioner knowledgeable in this condition for a formal diagnosis and recommended treatment that will provide optimal results.

Why You Can’t Stop the Stream