Low estrogen symptoms are typically associated with menopause or perimenopause, but what exactly is going on down there? We asked OBGYN Dr. Tamika Cross to answer all our questions about estrogen, low estrogen, and of course - menopause.
Q: What does estrogen do?
A: “Estrogen is a hormone that we all have - both men and women, but women tend to have more which is why it’s often thought of as the “feminizing hormone.” When we go through puberty, usually in the preteen years, we see the brain start to develop reproductive hormones like estrogen and progesterone. That surge of estrogen is what causes things like breast budding, hair on the vulva, hair under the arms, growth spurts, changes in body odor, and of course a period.”
Q: Why & when do we lose estrogen?
A: “During the reproductive years, estrogen levels go up and down with the menstrual cycle. During the ovulation period, estrogen is at its highest and is lowest on the first day of your period - that’s why you may experience some symptoms of low estrogen like dryness even if you’re not menopausal. You can also experience low estrogen during pregnancy, postpartum and breastfeeding that can cause vaginal dryness or dry vulvar skin.
As we age, estrogen levels start to decline, and eventually there’s a sharp decrease and estrogen levels become so low you stop having a period, aka menopause. The average age of menopause is 51, but is clinically defined as 12 months without a menstrual period. During menopause, the decrease of estrogen leads to more or less a reversal of the changes we experienced during puberty.”
Q: How does estrogen loss impact our sweet spots?
A: In the vulvar area, you start to see thinning of the labia, atrophy, and drying of the tissues. Inside the vagina, you see a loss of natural lubrication that can make sex uncomfortable. Here are some of the most common menopause symptoms below the belt:
- Changes in shape, size, appearance of labia, etc.
- Vaginal atrophy
- Fusing of labia
- Skin conditions like lichen sclerosus
- Painful sex
Q: Can you share any tips to help ease the symptoms of low estrogen?
A:“Exercise and diet can help with things like hot flashes. But a vaginal or vulvar moisturizer and a lubricant for sex (which I always remind people are not the same thing) are so important to help with the dryness and the itchiness, which is usually a result of the dryness. When you add moisture back into the tissue, you’ll have less itching and irritation.”
- As told to SweetSpot Labs