Sex hormones play a vital role in both reproductive and non-reproductive systems. They regulate sexual development, sexual function, and behavior. Sex hormones function through many nuclear receptors and impact numerous human abilities and behaviors.

Estrogen and progesterone are present in both males and females, though they are better known as female sex hormones made in the ovaries. They play an essential role in managing female reproductive functionality. However, they are not alike.

Estrogen vs. Progesterone – Key Differences

  • Progesterone is responsible for maintaining the uterus and endometrium, while estrogen develops secondary sexual characteristics.
  • The ovaries secrete estrogen before ovulation and progesterone after ovulation.
  • Progesterone is often called the pregnancy hormone.
  • Here we look closely at how the sex hormones impact our bodies and why estrogen and progesterone balance are important.

Estrogen Basics You Should Know

Estrogens are probably the most studied and discussed hormones in our bodies. Known as sex hormones, estrogens are found in both men and women. Three types of sex hormones – estrone, estradiol, and estriol are called the estrogen group of hormones. In women, the ovaries make most estrogens. The other organs that make estrogens are adrenal glands and fat tissues.

The adrenal glands and testes secrete estrogens in men, though lower in levels. Estradiol is the most potent of the three types of estrogens in our bodies. The steroid hormone is frequently referred to as the ‘female’ hormone and regulates female sex characteristics.

Quick Facts About Estrogens

Menopausal symptoms

  • Estradiol regulates sex drive, erectile functions, and sperm production in men.
  • Estrone is a weaker estrogen and is secreted in postmenopausal women.
  • Estriol is another estrogen hormone the body produces in high quantities during pregnancy.
  • Estriol helps maintain the uterus’s health during pregnancy.
  • It is also used for improving vaginal dryness and menopausal symptoms.

Progesterone Basics You Should Know

Like estrogen, progesterone is also secreted in both men and women. In women, the sex hormone supports menstruation cycles and pregnancy, breast development during puberty, and controls mood and energy levels. In men, it impacts spermiogenesis[1], is involved in testosterone biosynthesis, and plays a role in calming mood, enhancing libido, and building bone mass.

Estrogen vs. Progesterone In Women

In women, the corpus luteum inside the ovaries makes progesterone. The adrenal glands and placenta also make a small quantity of progesterone. As a sex hormone, it enhances some estrogenic effects, but progesterone has different roles to play.

  • As a sex hormone, progesterone prepares the uterus lining for potential pregnancy post ovulation.
  • Progesterone signals the uterus linings to thicken and host a fertilized egg. It also helps the body maintain pregnancy.
  • Progesterone and its metabolites inhibit myometrial contractility.
  • It plays a role in promoting lactation.
  • Modulate libido in women.

Estrogen vs. Progesterone In Men

We call testosterone the male hormone. However, men need estrogen (estradiol) and role of progesterone to perform biological sexual functions. Estradiol impacts male sexual function by regulating sexual desire, spermatogenesis, and erectile function in male bodies. And progesterone is the precursor to testosterone. In men, the testes and the adrenal glands produce progesterone.

Progesterone – Not Just a Sex Hormone

Although progesterone is considered a sex hormone, it also impacts emotional processing. Recent studies indicate that allopregnanolone, a progesterone metabolite, binds to GABA-A receptors and boosts GABA functions. Recent research also focuses on its efficacy in treating prostate cancer, traumatic brain injury, osteoporosis[2], and benign prostatic hypertrophy.

Role Of Estrogen and Progesterone In Human

Both estrogen and progesterone are steroid and sex hormones that play active roles in reproduction. Recent studies have shown that estrogen and progesterone are involved in many other physiological processes.

The Roles Of Estrogen Have Been Studied In The Following Areas:

  • Estrogens may shield against hepatitis, HIV, and Ebola. A study[3] published in the American Journal of Physiology reports that therapeutic estrogens protect pre-and postmenopausal women undergoing estrogen therapy against seasonal influenza.
  • Estrogens influence the emotional well-being of women.
  • Estrogen also plays a role in enhancing cognitive functions.

  • Estrogen helps improve sleep quality[4] and lowers nighttime restlessness common in postmenopausal women.

Role Of Progesterone In Our Bodies:

  • As a female sex hormone, progesterone prepares the uterus for pregnancy. It plays a role in endometrium growth and maintenance.
  • Progesterone induces calm and helps you relax to sleep better at night. It has proven sedative, anxiolytic, and antiepileptic effects.
  • Progesterone stimulates appetite by stimulating ghrelin secretion. While talking about estrogen vs. progesterone, this is a major difference between the two steroid hormones. Estrogen is known to inhibit appetite.
  • Natural progesterone can remarkably lower breast cancer risks, which is a significant estrogen vs. progesterone difference as estrogens are suspected as breast carcinogens and can initiate breast cancer in women.

How Estrogen Levels Affect You

Sex hormones
The ovaries produce estrogens in our bodies. Estriol, estradiol, and estrone are three estrogens involved in many biological processes in our bodies. Fluctuations of estrogens – low and high – affect both men and women. Estrogen and progesterone balance is crucial to health. Let us look at how a hormonal imbalance impacts your overall well being.

Low Estrogen – How It Affects Men and Women

Women with Low Estrogen

In peri and postmenopausal women, the normal level for estradiol ranges between 30 to 400 pg/ml and 0 to 30 pg/ml, respectively. Low estrogen levels affect physical, sexual, and emotional health. Women experience estrogen imbalance when they hit the perimenopause phase. During perimenopause, the ovaries produce a lower amount of estrogen. Common Symptoms of low estrogen in women are:

  • Hot Flashes
  • Fatigue
  • Night sweats
  • Sleep difficulty
  • Breast tenderness
  • Mood swings
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Dry vagina
  • Lower libido
  • Osteoporosis
  • Cognitive decline

Men with Low Estrogen

Though estrogen is called a female sex hormone, men have estradiol (E2) – a potent form of estrogen in their bodies. In men, the enzyme called aromatase converts testosterone to estradiol. Aromatase is present in the adrenal glands, the testicles, fatty tissues, and the brain. The normal estradiol level in fertile men needs to be between 10-50 pg/ml. Common symptoms of low estrogen in men are:

  • Fatigue
  • Sexual Dysfunction
  • Sleeping disorders
  • Low sex drive
  • Bone loss
  • Memory issues
  • Anxiety
  • Fat accumulation around the belly

How Progesterone Levels Affect You

Progesterone Hormone
In women, the corpus luteum in the ovary secretes the progesterone hormone. In men, the adrenal glands and testes are involved in progesterone production. Both men and women need progesterone for various physiological processes. The normal levels of progesterone in women and men are:

  • Prepubescent girls – 0.1 to 0.3 ng/ml
  • Follicular stage of the menstrual period – 0.1 to 0.7 ng/ml
  • Luteal stage of the menstrual period – 2 to 25 ng/ml
  • The first trimester of pregnancy – 10 to 44 ng/ml
  • The second trimester of pregnancy – 19.5 to 82.5 ng/ml
  • The third trimester of pregnancy – 65 to 290 ng/ml

In men, the normal level of progesterone is 1 mg/mL.

If we analyze estrogen vs. progesterone, the latter is involved in developing and preserving endometrium and uterus, while the former is required for developing secondary sex characteristics. Luteinizing hormone controls progesterone secretion. During pregnancy, progesterone takes care of the uterus.

In men, progesterone counterbalances the estrogen effects. It also helps lower prostate cancer risks. Progesterone in men is also required to maintain fertility, support healthy libido and erectile functions, promote muscle mass, maintain a healthy weight, and improve mood.

Low Progesterone in Women

Women experience progesterone fluctuation during the menstrual cycle. Menopause and poor ovary health may cause low progesterone in women. A low level of progesterone may inhibit pregnancy or cause miscarriage.

Following are some symptoms that you may have low progesterone:

  • Irregular menstrual cycle
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Low sex drive
  • Mood changes
  • Hot flashes
  • Fibroids
  • Weight gain

High Progesterone In Women

You may have high progesterone if you have ovarian cysts or ovarian cancer. When the adrenal glands don’t work properly, you suffer from hormonal imbalance. Symptoms of high progesterone in women are:

  • Weight gain
  • Low libido
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Breast swelling or tenderness
  • Depression
  • Bloating

Low Progesterone In Men

A low level of progesterone in men can impact sexual functions and affect prostate health. A low level of progesterone leads to estrogen dominance, and it may cause:

  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Weight gain
  • Depression
  • Low libido
  • hair loss
  • Enlarged breast

Conclusion – Ways to Balance Estrogen And Progesterone Naturally

Being attentive to the diet may help balance the hormones naturally. Health experts suggest switching to diets rich in minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients. Also, taking natural foods rich in vitamin D3, B vitamins, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids may help balance your hormones.

If you are about to enter the menopause zone, regular exercise will help you in the long run. Testing your hormone levels regularly and consulting physicians are good ideas to tackle hormonal imbalance.

Hormones are chemical messengers, and sex hormones are an important type involved in many biological functions. However, hormone secretion undergoes fluctuations for many reasons. Estrogen and progesterone imbalance may impact sexual, physical, and mental health. Therefore, it is necessary to maintain the balance.

Women are especially vulnerable as they undergo menopause when estrogen production falls rapidly. Decreasing levels of estrogen negatively impacts overall health. Along with reproductive health, estrogen and progesterone impact bone and muscle growth, body weight, and mood.