What are sex hormones? Why are they named so? State their function
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What are sex hormones? Why are they named so? State their function
Updated on October 31, 2023
Medically verified by Dr. Arya
Fact checked by Sreemoyee
You may already know that different kinds of hormones are responsible for different functions in our body.
Likewise, there are hormones which are responsible for reproductive and sexual functions. They are called sex hormones.
Do you know what they are? Or how they function? Mykare Health is here to help you understand everything you need to know about sex hormones.
Sexual hormones help in developing and regulating the reproductive and sexual functions. They also play a role in sexual differences as well.
Which are the different sex hormones in the human body?
While oestrogen and progesterone are the most known sex hormones, there are other hormones as well. All these hormones together are responsible for both sexual development and reproduction, in humans.
Let us take a look at them.
Androgens are present in both men and women. But it is the male body which produces more androgen.
It plays a key role during puberty. It also helps the body to develop physically. Androgen is also important for reproductive health.
In males, it is the testicles which produce androgen. In females, androgen is produced by ovaries.
Besides this, adrenal glands also produce this hormone.
There are different kinds of androgens. They are listed below :-
- Testosterone It is the most common kind of androgen.
Gonads or sex organs- ie, testicles in males and ovaries in females produce testosterone.
Though present in both genders it is produced more in males.
In developing many physical and sexual characteristics in men, testosterone has a major role.
Dehydroepiandrosterone (or DHEA)
DHEA Sulphate (DHEA-S)
This hormone is present in anyone who is assigned as female during birth (AFAB). This includes, cisgender women, transgender men and nonbinary people who have vaginas.
They are also present in men in small amounts.
In developing both the primary sex characteristics and secondary sex characteristics, oestrogen has an important role. Another important function of it is related to the reproductive functions in women.
We will discuss the other functions of oestrogen later.
Types of oestrogen are :-
Estrone(E1) which is present in your body when you are going through menopause
If you are in your reproductive years, estradiol (E2) is the kind of oestrogen in your body.
And if you are in your pregnancy phase, estriol (E3) will be abundant in your body.
Progesterone is a sex hormone present in women. But some amount of progesterone is also present in men.
Let us see what the main function of progesterone is.
Lining of your uterus is called endometrium. It is in the endometrium where the fertilised egg is attached and starts growing. Progesterone helps endometrium to prepare for this.
Though not discussed much, luteinizing hormone (LH) is important for sexual health and reproduction.
It is generated by the pituitary gland.
It causes the ovaries to release the egg(ovulation). Just before ovulation, the amount of LH in your body drops
LH also controls your menstruation.
Luteinizing hormone is also present in men. In men, it makes testicles to produce testosterone.
Follicle Stimulating Hormone(FSH)
Follicle stimulating hormones are also generated by pituitary glands. Like other sex hormones, FSH also plays an important role in sexual development and reproduction.
For these, it works alongside luteinizing hormones.
Like LH,FSH also helps to control your menstruation. Also,in ovaries, it stimulates the growth of eggs.
What are the functions of Sex hormones?
In both genders, this sex hormone has a major role in maintaining the density of bone and in the development of muscle.
It's another role is during puberty. Another function of androgen is in the production of red blood cells.
Like we discussed earlier, androgen has control over sexual desire.
Gender specific role of androgen is in the table below:
|Development of sperm||Helps in regulating menstruation|
|Helps with the growth of hair on the scalp,face,chest area,under arms and genitals.||Helps in conceiving and in pregnancy|
|Pubic hair growth and under arm hair growth|
|To an extent it decreases the loss of bone or osteoporosis.|
During puberty, the level of oestrogen in the body increases.This results in the development of secondary sex characteristics (growth of breasts,development of curves etc.).
Plays a major role in keeping the regularity of your periods.
Thickens the endometrium (line of uterus) and prepares it for pregnancy.
When you are on your periods, the level of oestrogen goes up in your body. This makes sexual intercourse more comfortable.
Oestrogen also helps in maintaining the mass of your bone and muscle. Cholesterol level and blood sugar level are also controlled by oestrogen.
Another role is in blood flow.
It also helps in the production of collagen. Collagen helps to maintain the elasticity of your skin. Skin moisturisation is its another role
It also plays a key role in your ability to focus.
Progesterone prepares the lining of your uterus (endometrium) for the growth of the fertilised egg.
During pregnancy, progesterone supports pregnancy.
During your periods, progesterone also regulates the blood flow.
It has a great role in lifting your mood.
It also supports lactation and thyroid function.
Ovulation in females.
LH is responsible for your periods (menstrual cycle).
In males, the hormone responsible for sperm production is LH.
It provokes the production of oestrogen and progesterone, in the ovaries.
In testes, it also stimulates the production of testosterone.
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Follicle Stimulating Hormones
|Instigates the growth of follicles||Stimulates sperm production in men|
|Controls your periods|
|Ovary produces egg when FSH stimulate it|
|Plays key role in the development of secondary sexual characteristics|
|During ovulation, an egg is released from a follicle. FSH stimulates the growth of ovarian follicles|
|Oestradiol production is increased by FSH|
What are the health problems due to imbalance in sex hormones?
- Hyperandrogenism is a state in which the level of androgen increases in your body.
There could be many reasons for this, including PCOS or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.
It can cause acne, and abnormal periods. Excessive loss or growth of hair is another result.
Other aftermaths include Obesity, Infertility, tumours in the ovary, and high blood pressure and blood sugar.
When levels of androgen decrease in the body (hypoandrogenism), it can cause osteoporosis (density and mass of bone diminishes) in women.
Other issues include low libido, bone fracture and fatigue.
In men, over androgen production could result in prostate cancer.
Sometimes imbalance in androgen causes breast growth or gynecomastia in men.
Low level of androgen in men sometimes results in erectile dysfunction, low libido (sex drive), anxiety ,depression and they find it hard to concentrate
- When a foetus is in the uterus, genitals develop with the help of androgens.
When a child is born with androgen insufficiency, the baby may have male chromosomes, penis may not be fully formed or sometimes so small.
- When the level of androgen is high in a baby with female chromosomes, the baby's genitals might look like that of a male’s.
- Low oestrogen levels can weaken the bones in females (osteoporosis).
It can also result in an eating disorder (anorexia).
Irregularity in the menstrual cycle is another result of low oestrogen level.
It makes sex less enjoyable for women and causes both emotional and physical changes in them.
It makes the lining of your vagina thin and makes it dry.
- High oestrogen levels result in building up of the lining of the uterus.
It can also be associated with polyps or fibroids growing in the uterus. They are non cancerous
- Obesity sometimes is associated with higher levels of oestrogen
Higher level of progesterone usually doesn't have much negative effect. But sometimes it could mean ovarian cancer.
But low levels of progesterone give you hot flashes, periods which are not regular, and sleeping trouble.Other symptoms include, difficulty in getting pregnant, anxiety and depression, and mood swings.
It could also result in miscarriage, premature labour, and ectopic pregnancy (ie, fertilised egg is implanted outside your uterus).
Increased level of luteinizing hormones (LH) means that your reproductive functions are not getting enough support. This is because your sex organs are not producing enough hormones to support it.
Turner syndrome (one of the x chromosomes is partially or fully missing in females) is an example of genetic condition associated with high levels of LH.
When men are born with an extra X chromosome (klinefelter syndrome), it is associated with high levels of LH.
Low levels of LH can mean that testosterone and oestrogen production are not sufficient.
Follicle Stimulating Hormone
High FSH level can result in reduced fertility in women
If the level is higher during your reproductive years, it is a symptom associated with PCOS.
Level of FSH also increases when you are approaching menopause.
Low level of FSH could cause irregular periods.
It can also result in reduced sex drive, mood swings and fatigue, in both men and women.
When the level is dropped in postmenopausal women, their bone density gets reduced.Their bones become more fragile.
Abnormal higher or lower level of follicle stimulating hormone when you are in adolescence, it could delay your puberty.
Sex hormones are important for both sexual and reproductive functions in a human body.
They play a key role in regulating other body functions too.
Androgens, Oestrogens, and progesterone are the major sex hormones.Other hormones associated with sexual and reproductive functions are Luteinizing hormones and Follicle stimulating hormones.
Imbalance in any of these hormones could result in the disruption in normal functioning of the body.sometimes it could also result in some serious health conditions.