For Lesbians: Getting to Know
Your Reproductive Hormones

by Judith E. Beckett, R.N.

Because lesbians so infrequently deal with birth control, many of us are woefully ignorant of what makes our reproductive systems tick. By arming ourselves with knowledge, we can more accurately predict our cycles and this will give us a better chance of conceiving when we are ready.

There are really only five hormones you need to know about in order to understand your menstrual cycle, why and when you ovulate, and why changes in body temperature and cervical mucus indicate when you have the best shot at conceiving a baby.

Pregnant Belly
  1. Estrogen is the hormone that is responsible for the changes such as breast development and hair growth that occur in your body around the time that you get your first period. Most of it is produced in your ovaries. Each month, as the eggs in your ovaries mature, more and more estrogen is produced until an egg is released from its follicle (sac). Estrogen causes the lining of your uterus (womb) to thicken and enrich to nourish the egg if it’s fertilized. Estrogen keeps the body temperature low and vaginal mucus thin and abundant.
  2. Progesterone is produced by the corpus luteum (yellow body), the ruptured follicle that released the egg during ovulation. Progesterone is necessary to maintain the lining of the uterus and the pregnancy. The corpus luteum will continue to produce progesterone for about eight or nine weeks until the baby’s placenta can take over. Progesterone causes your body temperature to increase slightly and your cervical mucus to get thicker.
  3. Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) is produced by the pituitary gland. It stimulates the growth of follicles and the maturation of the eggs in your ovaries. In men, FSH is necessary for sperm production.
  4. Luteinizing Hormone (LH) is also produced by the pituitary gland. It is released into your bloodstream in a “surge” that causes the egg to burst from its follicle and head down the fallopian tube. It is the hormone that ovulation predictor kits detect. In men, LH is necessary for testosterone production.
  5. Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) is called the pregnancy hormone and it is produced by the embryo. In a sweet little feedback loop, it maintains the corpus luteum and the production of progesterone that maintains the pregnancy and the embryo’s survival. It is the hormone detected by pregnancy tests.
Estrogen is produced by the ovaries. The closer it gets to ovulation, the more estrogen is released. Estrogen causes the cervical fluid to be thin and abundant and causes the basal body temperature to be low.
Progesterone is the hormone released after ovulation. Progesterone is responsible for the basal body temperature rising and for maintaining the uterine lining - in preparation for the fertilized egg. Progesterone is produced by the corpus luteum.
FSH also known as follicle stimulating hormone. FSH stimulates the ovaries into maturing the egg(s) and into producing estrogen. FSH is produced by the pituitary gland.
Luteinizing hormone or LH is produced by the pituitary gland. This is the hormone that is released in a surge and causes the ovary to release the mature egg. LH is the hormone that ovulation predictor kits detect.
HCG - human chorionic gonadotropin is referred to as the pregnancy hormone. HCG is produced by the developing embryo when it implants into the uterine lining. HCG is the hormone that is detected by pregnancy tests. HCG helps to maintain the corpus luteum in the event of pregnancy which maintains the high levels of progesterones.

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