There are two hormones that are associated with females: estrogen and progesterone. These hormones, along with the traditionally male hormone testosterone, are produced in the ovaries. They all work along with the unisex follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone(LH). All of these hormones, together, have specific functions in a normal female reproductive system.
Testosterone is usually associated only with males, but plays an important function in females as well. This steroidal hormone influences sexual drive in women. Women in their 20s appear to have the highest levels of testosterone in their system. Studies have shown that, in small doses, testosterone therapy can help women with a failing sex drive, particularly following menopause. Too much testosterone can reshape the female body and produce other negative effects, such as unwanted hair growth.
The female hormones estrogen and progesterone are responsible for most of the functions associated with the female sex. The levels of these hormones rise and fall with ovulation, menstruation and pregnancy. These increases and decreases can cause some mood changes, including the event known as premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
Progesterone stimulates the uterine lining during the latter half of the menstrual cycle to get ready for potential implantation. It also seems to protect the fetus during growth, and keeps the mother's immune system from rejecting the fetus as foreign. Women who have had repeated late miscarriages sometimes require progesterone therapy to be able to carry a baby to term. The levels of progesterone drop right before labor, allowing for the contraction of the uterine muscle and the start of lactation.
Estrogen is the best known of the female hormones. It is produced in the ovaries when FSH and LH stimulate the ovaries. This most influential of the female hormones is responsible for forming the female shape including such factors as limiting muscle mass and height, as well as and formation of the breasts.
Estrogen has a precarious link to breast cancer. While estrogen is necessary for normal female sexual function, it has been shown to increase the risk of certain types of breast cancer, since it stimulates the growth of breast tissue. Some studies suggest that the suppression of estrogen can be successful in slowing the growth of these types of cancer.
Hormone replacement has become a popular option for women undergoing menopause. Female hormones like estrogen are replaced using skin patches, topical creams, and injections. These therapies reportedly relieve some of the most common menopausal complaints like hot flashes and night sweats. Some women even report that their skin becomes more youthful and moister and their bone mass is improved. Those considering this treatment, however, should be aware that some studies indicate that it may increase the risk of cancer.