How ovaries impact a woman’s everyday life
Unless you are a woman and are interested in getting pregnant, you probably haven’t given a second thought to your ovaries. Usually only highlighted in pregnancy and menstrual forums, ovaries are often misunderstood.
“A woman’s ovaries are commonly thought to only house and release eggs,” explains Dr. Christine Estes, OBGYN at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill. “When in actuality they are a versatile and comprehensive organ which controls most of the reproductive and hormones that impact a woman’s body.”
Dr. Christine Estes shares five facts every women should know about their ovaries:
- Hormone Producers
As an endocrine gland that secretes hormones, ovaries primarily produce estrogen and progesterone, plus a lower amount of testosterone. The first two help transition girls to a woman’s body during puberty and initiate and maintain the menstrual cycle to prepare for potential pregnancy. Besides dropping eggs, they also prepare the uterus for potential babies each month. Testosterone helps with one’s sex drive.
- Shape Shifters
Most organs in the human body stay the same size, but ovaries do not. They change over the monthly duration of a woman’s menstrual cycle, but also throughout the reproductive life of a woman. They are usually 3-5 centimeters in length but grow in size as they release an egg each month. However, as soon as menopause hits, the ovaries terminate their functions, and they literally shrivel up.
- Stress Affects Them
Major life changes like moving away or physical demands put a lot of pressure on a body, which cause the ovaries to stress out. When ovaries stress out, they stop releasing eggs to prevent pregnancy during significant stress.
- Acne Instigators
As mentioned, ovaries have a lot of control on a woman’s hormones. When the hormone balance is off between the three previously mentioned hormones, different bodily issues can occur. For example, if testosterone is off kilter, a main side effect is acne, along with hair growth in different places and weight changes.
- Pill Lovers
Not only does the pill help hold off childbearing for women, but it also helps your ovaries in the fight against ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is greatly reduced when estrogen and progesterone versions of the pill are used. It also goes further to reduce the risk of women carrying BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations, which puts you at a higher risk for ovarian cancer.
“My patients have greatly benefited in better understanding their bodies,” says Dr. Estes. “I want women to have ownership and empowerment in knowing how their reproductive and hormone systems work so they know when something is amiss and visit my office to find a solution together.”
About the Author
Jennifer Benson, health enews contributor, is coordinator of public affairs for Advocate Aurora Health. She has 10+ years of community development and communication experience for non-profits and has a BA in Architecture from Judson University in Elgin, IL. Outside of work, you can find her planning the next adventure near water or rocks, re-organizing spaces, working on her Master’s in Public Health, caring for her senior citizen cat, keeping to healthy moving and eating disciplines and growing green things wherever she can find room.