Home Health Information Estrogens (estradiol, estriol): How they work

Estrogens (estradiol, estriol): How they work

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 396 views

Estrogens are sex hormones that play an important role, especially in the female body. They play a crucial role in the menstrual cycle and reproduction. Read more about the function of oestrogens, what blood values ​​are considered normal and what can increase or decrease the values!

What are estrogens?

Like progesterone , estrogen is a female sex hormone. Estrogens are mainly produced in the ovaries, as well as small amounts in the adrenal cortex and in pregnant women in the placenta (placenta).

Strictly speaking, the term “female” sex hormones for estrogens is incorrect. Because men also produce estrogens (more precisely: estradiol), even if only in small amounts. Places of formation are primarily the testicles .

Natural and artificial estrogens

The most important ( natural) estrogens found in the body are estradiol, estrone and estriol. In women, together with the progestins, they control all processes in the female cycle and in reproduction. For example, they cause the sacs (follicles) in the ovaries to mature, trigger ovulation , ensure that the egg is transported through the fallopian tube into the uterus and ensure that the mucous membrane in the uterus grows. Estrogens also promote breast growth and increase mucus production in the cervix .

In addition, estrogens have many effects on the metabolism: for example, they increase blood circulation, lead to water retention, promote the production of proteins and lead to an increase in triglycerides and cholesterol.

Estrogens also play a role in fat metabolism and many other metabolic processes in men. They are also considered an important stimulus of male sexuality.

Artificial estrogens such as ethinyl estradiol are part of the contraceptive pill . They are also used in women to treat menopausal symptoms.

When are estrogens determined?

Estradiol is determined in the following cases:

  • for menstrual disorders (especially bleeding disorders)
  • to determine if a woman needs hormones after menopause
  • to determine if infertility treatment is working (sterility treatment)
  • in disorders of pubertal development
  • in tumor therapy and diagnostics (in hormone-producing tumors such as ovarian cancer ).

estrogen normal values

The estrogens are determined in the blood serum. In most cases, the most potent estrogen, estradiol, is determined. Sometimes estriol and estrone are also of interest.


The following normal values ​​apply to estradiol in children :

age Female male
0 to 2 months 163 – 803 pmol/l 60 – 130 pmol/l
3 to 12 months 32 – 950 pmol/l 25 – 71 pmol/L
1 to 3 years 11 – 55 pmol/l 13 – 88 pmol/l
4 to 6 years 16 – 36.6 pmol/l 15 – 62 pmol/l
7 to 9 years 12 – 55.4 pmol/l 17 – 24.4 pmol/l
10 to 12 years 12 – 160 pmol/l 12 – 47 pmol/l

In girls and women from the age of 13, the estradiol normal values ​​depend on the cycle phase or the onset of menopause:

age or phase Estradiol normal values
Cycle (13 to 50 years) follicular phase 46 – 607 pmol/l
ovulation 350 – 1828 pmol/l
luteal phase 161 – 774 pmol/l
from 51 years 18.4 – 201 pmol/l

The following normal estradiol values ​​apply to boys from the age of 13 and men :

age Estradiol normal values
13 to 15 years 14 – 110 pmol/l
16 to 20 years 30 – 169 pmol/l
from 21 years 28 – 156 pmol/l

Attention: The estradiol normal ranges of different laboratories can differ slightly from each other. In individual cases, the normal range specified on the respective laboratory report applies. In addition, the measured values ​​are often not given in “pmol/l” but in “pg/ml”. Conversion: pmol/lx 0.272 = pg/ml

estriol and estrone

Estriol is increasingly produced during pregnancy. The following standard values ​​apply here:

week of pregnancy Estriol normal values
28th – 31st week 2.5 – 10.0 µg/l
32nd – 33rd week 3.5 – 12.0 µg/l
34th – 35th week 4.0 – 13.0 µg/l
36th – 37th week 5.0 – 17.0 µg/l
38th – 40th week 6.0 – 25.0 µg/l

Estrone levels are above 50 pg/ml in sexually mature women. After the menopause, only values ​​up to 40 pg/ml are normally measured.

When are estrogen levels too low?

In women, an estradiol value that is too low indicates an underactive ovaries (ovarian insufficiency). This occurs naturally after menopause. Ovarian insufficiency can also have other reasons, for example an underactive pituitary gland (pituitary insufficiency) or Turner syndrome . In addition, the function of the ovaries can be impaired by chemotherapy or radiation therapy or by various medications (such as the contraceptive pill or GnRH analogues).

Estrone levels are reduced in women after menopause. But this has no disease value.

Low estriol levels during pregnancy can have maternal or child causes. Treatment of the pregnant woman with cortisone or antibiotics can be the reason for the reduced estriol level. Liver and kidney diseases, diabetes and smoking are also possible causes. Childhood causes of low estriol levels are, for example, neural tube defects or infections. Neural tube defects are malformations of the child’s nervous system. In addition, decreased estriol levels can indicate placental insufficiency . This means a functional weakness of the placenta. The unborn child then does not receive enough oxygen and nutrients via the placenta.

In prenatal diagnostics , a reduced estriol level can indicate an increased risk of trisomy 21 ( Down syndrome ) in the child.

When are estrogen levels too high?

In women, increased estradiol levels can occur in the following cases:

  • Follicle persistence: Failure of ovulation and persistence of the mature follicle in the ovary with continued release of estradiol from the follicle
  • Overdose of medication containing estrogen (e.g. in the case of fertility treatment)
  • pregnancy
  • Anterior pituitary tumor with increased production of gonadotropins (hormones that stimulate ovarian function)
  • liver cirrhosis
  • hyperthyroidism
  • rare: estrogen-producing ovarian tumor (granulosa cell tumor, theca cell tumor)

The oestrone value can be increased in very overweight women after the menopause and after taking oestradiol.

Estriol levels may be elevated in pregnant women who are expecting multiple births or who have damaged kidneys.

In men, increased levels of estrogen (more precisely: estradiol) can be caused by severe obesity or liver cirrhosis.

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