Women’s hormones fluctuate a lot. From puberty to pregnancy to menopause, you sort of expect to be taken on an emotional and physical rollercoaster. Here's how to spot if your hormones are unbalanced and how you can test for a hormone imbalance.
- What is a hormonal imbalance?
- Signs of hormonal imbalances
- Causes of hormonal imbalances
- How to test for hormonal imbalances
- How to treat hormonal imbalances
What is a hormonal imbalance?
A hormonal imbalance means you have too much or too little of a hormone in your blood. Hormones are powerful chemicals, so if any of them are out of balance it can have a big impact on your physical and mental health.
Signs of hormonal imbalances
Firstly, everyone is different — what’s normal for you could be totally abnormal for another. But here are some common signs that your hormones might be imbalanced:
- irregular or absent periods
- oily skin and acne
- low energy levels
- bloating and digestive issues
- breast tenderness
- excess body hair (hirsutism)
- hot flashes and night sweats
- weight gain
- sleep problems
- weakened bones
- low sex drive (libido)
- vaginal dryness or pain during sex
- difficulty getting pregnant
Hormones also have a big effect on your mental health. So if they’re imbalanced, some other signs might include:
- mood swings
- memory problems
- anxiety and depression
Causes of hormonal imbalances
The causes of hormonal imbalances are complex and varied. Sometimes it could be down to your lifestyle and other times it could be caused by a medical condition.
Some lifestyle factors that could cause hormonal imbalances include:
- chronic stress
- a poor diet
- being overweight or obese
- medication — for example, an oral contraceptive (the pill), hormone replacement therapy (HRT), or steroids
Some medical conditions that could cause hormonal imbalances include:
- polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- premature menopause
- an underactive or overactive thyroid
- an endocrine tumour or cyst — for example, a pituitary tumour
- an ovarian tumour
- a side effect of cancer treatment
Risks of hormonal imbalances
Long-term, hormonal imbalances might increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, kidney disease, cancer, infertility, anxiety, and depression. So if you think your hormone levels might be imbalanced it’s important to get them checked.
How to test for hormonal imbalances
If you think your hormones might be out of balance, you can check your levels with a blood test.
In some cases, your doctor might do additional tests to check for underlying problems — for example, a smear test to check your cervix or an ultrasound scan to check your ovaries.
How to treat hormonal imbalances
There are lots of things you can do to correct your hormone levels. Treatment will depend on what’s causing your hormones to be imbalanced in the first place.
In some cases, you might need to work with your GP or a specialist to correct your hormones levels. Treatment might include:
- hormone replacement therapy
- a hormonal contraceptive
- vaginal oestrogen
- surgery (in rare cases)
Don’t underestimate the positive effects that lifestyle changes can have on correcting your hormone levels. Lowering your stress levels, making sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and exercise can get your levels back on track and improve your mood — as well as being good for your overall health.
Recommended listening for you
National Health Services (2016). Health A-Z. Polycystic ovary syndrome. Retrieved 26 October 2018 from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/polycystic-ovary-syndrome-pcos/.
National Health Services (2016). Health A-Z. Menopause. Retrieved 26 October 2018
Society for Endocrinology (2018). You and your hormones. Hormones. Retrieved 26 October 2018 from http://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/.