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Own every day: your guide to understanding your hormones


Reviewed byHeeral Patel

Lady stood on ocean front with happy expression
Your hormones play a part in every stage of your life, but we know they can sometimes feel confusing. Learn how to understand your hormones better here.
Our hormones change every day – not just when we’re feeling low. Hormones play a part in every stage of our lives.

So, what do the more complicated terms mean?

We’ve got simple definitions covered all in one place, so – whatever your age – you can start to own every day of the month.

Female sex hormones 

  • Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH): a hormone that triggers the maturation of an egg and stimulates the ovaries to produce oestrogen and progesterone
  • Luteinising hormone (LH): a hormone which stimulates the ovaries to produce oestrogen and progesterone1 
  • Oestrogen: one of the main female sex hormones, produced by the ovaries. It’s important for puberty and the menstrual cycle, as well as supporting your heart and bone health2,3 
  • Progesterone: a hormone produced by the ovaries. Progesterone levels rise after ovulation, thickening the uterine lining to help prepare for a potentially fertilised egg4,5 
  • Testosterone: a hormone mainly associated with men, but women have some too. Testosterone levels drop after menopause and may cause low sex drive6

The body 

  • Cervix: a muscular tube connecting the vagina and the uterus. It allows menstrual blood to travel from the uterus to the vagina during a period7,8 
  • Ovaries: organs in the female reproductive system which produce eggs and sex hormones
  • Pelvic floor: the muscles which support the bladder, bowel, and uterus. They help hold urine in9 
  • Thyroid: a gland in the neck which produces hormones that help balance metabolism, heart rate, and more
  • Uterus: an organ in the female reproductive system also known as the womb. Unborn babies grow in the uterus during pregnancy. The lining of the uterus is released during a period7,4 
  • Vagina: the muscular canal that travels from the uterus to the outside of the body10 
  • Vulva: the external female genitalia, such as the labia majora and minora and the clitoris7

Menstrual cycle phases 

  • Follicular phase: the first half of the menstrual cycle. During this time, you menstruate (have a period)11 
  • Menstruation: also known as your period, when you bleed. This happens in the first few days of the follicular phase
  • Ovulation: when the ovaries release an egg. This happens once every menstrual cycle, after the follicular phase12 
  • Luteal phase: the second half of the menstrual cycle, when luteinising hormone increases. The luteal phase ends when menstruation begins again7

Hormonal life cycle 

  • Menarche: the name for your first ever period, typically happening between ages ten to 16
  • Fertility: the ability to conceive a child naturally13 
  • Pregnancy: the period in which a fetus (unborn baby) develops inside the womb for nine months.14 
  • Perimenopause: the phase leading up to menopause, where you begin to experience menopausal symptoms. Perimenopause ends, and menopause begins, when you haven’t had a period for 12 months15 
  • Menopause: when your periods permanently stop due to lower hormone levels. This happens to anyone who has periods, usually between the ages of 45 and 5515 
  • Postmenopause: the stage of life after menopause, beginning 12 months after your last period
  • Early menopause: menopause that begins before the age of 4516

Key symptoms 

  • Dysmenorrhea: painful periods.17 
  • Dyspareunia: painful or difficult sex. There are many causes, but it’s fairly common during menopause.18 
  • Hypomenorrhea: abnormally light bleeding during a period.19 
  • Menorrhagia: heavy periods.20 
  • Oligomenorrhea: infrequent periods, usually happening more than 35 days apart.19 
  • Period pain: pain that happens during your period, usually in the first few days. This is often felt as cramps in the lower abdomen (usually due to your uterus contracting) but can also be in your lower back.17 
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD): a more severe form of PMS that about 5% of menstruating people experience. You may need medical treatment to help manage PMDD.21 
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS): the symptoms you might experience in the days leading up to your period. PMS is different for everyone, but could include breast tenderness, mood changes, bloating, tiredness, and appetite changes.22 
  • Vaginal atrophy: thinning of the vaginal walls, caused by a drop in oestrogen. Your vagina may feel dry and uncomfortable, and you’ll have a greater risk of urinary problems and vaginal infections.23 
  • Vasomotor symptoms: another word for ‘hot flushes’, the rushes of heat many people feel during and after menopause.24

Conditions impacting menstrual health 

  • Endometriosis: a condition where tissue similar to the uterine lining grows elsewhere in the body. It causes scar tissue resulting in painful periods, pain during sex, and may affect fertility.25 
  • Genitourinary syndrome of the menopause (GSM): an umbrella term for the vaginal, urinary, and sexual symptoms that can occur during menopause.26,27 
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): a condition that can cause hormonal imbalances, cysts on the ovaries, irregular periods, and more. It may also cause infertility.28 
  • Premature ovarian insufficiency, or primary ovarian insufficiency (POI): a condition where the ovaries stop working prematurely, usually before age 40. This is different to early menopause as some people with POI occasionally have periods.26

Medication and medical processes 

  • Contraception: intentionally preventing pregnancy. Methods might include medication (like the Pill), barrier methods (like condoms), surgery, or devices inside the body (like IUDs or the contraceptive implant). 
  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT): medication that some people take after menopause to replace the hormones lost and help relieve symptoms. About 15% of women aged 45-64 in the UK take HRT.1,29 
  • Hysterectomy: a surgery to remove the womb.30 
  • Oophorectomy: a surgery to remove one or both ovaries.30 
  • Surgical menopause: surgery to remove the ovaries which induces menopausal symptoms.30,1

Menstrual and menopausal health: things that might help

  • Bath: taking a warm bath can help relax the pelvic muscles and ease cramps.31 
  • Calcium: a mineral that helps maintain normal bones.32 This is always important, but especially so during menopause as you lose bone mass.33,34 
  • Evening primrose oil: the oil extracted from the evening primrose plant. Some people use it to help relieve PMS symptoms, though scientific evidence of its effectiveness is limited.22 
  • Exercise: gentle exercise can help relieve milder period pain.17 It’s also important to continue exercising during and after menopause to help support your bone health, heart health, and mood.33,34,35,17 
  • Ginger: according to the NHS, foods containing ginger may help relieve nausea.36 This might be useful if you feel sick during your period or while you’re pregnant. 
  • Hot water bottle: using a hot water bottle on your back or lower belly can help to ease period pain.17 
  • Phytoestrogens: plant proteins similar to oestrogen. Some people believe that eating lots of phytoestrogen-rich foods (like soy products) can help relieve menopausal symptoms, though evidence is mixed.
  • Vitamin B6: contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue and helps regulate hormonal activity.37,38 
  • Water: drinking enough water is important all the time, including on your period, while you’re pregnant, and during menopause.39,40,41 Aim for six to eight cups per day.42 
  • Yoga: yoga has been recommended by the NHS to help relieve period pain, as well as helping with mood and supporting your pelvic floor.31,1


The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.

It is important to always check with your doctor or midwife before taking any supplements while pregnant. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, taking any medications or under medical supervision, please consult a doctor or healthcare professional before use.


1. NHS Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust. Fast Facts for Patients: Menopause [Internet]. S. Karger Publishers Ltd; 2021 [cited 2024 Mar 25]. Available from: https://www.liverpoolwomens.nhs.uk/media/4252/fast-facts-for-patients-menopause-resource.pdf
2. Endocrine Society. What Does Estrogen Do? [Internet]. Endocrine Society [cited 2024 Mar 25]. Available from: https://www.endocrine.org/-/media/endocrine/files/patient-engagement/infographics/what_does_estrogen_do.pdf
3. British Heart Foundation. Menopause and your heart [Internet]. British Heart Foundation [cited 2024 Mar 25]. Available from: https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/support/women-with-a-heart-condition/menopause-and-heart-disease
4. Office on Women’s Health. Glossary [Internet]. Office on Women’s Health [updated 2021 Feb 22; cited 2024 Mar 25]. Available from: https://www.womenshealth.gov/glossary
5. NHS Sherwood Forest Hospitals. Menopause – Why do my joints and muscles ache? [Internet]. NHS Sherwood Forest Hospitals [cited 2024 Mar 25]. Available from: https://www.nhsemployers.org/system/files/2022-03/MSK_Menopause%20Leaflet.pdf
6. Women’s Health Concern. Testosterone for women [Internet]. Women’s Health Concern; 2022 Feb [cited 2024 Mar 25]. Available from: https://www.womens-health-concern.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/22-WHC-FACTSHEET-Testosterone-for-women-NOV2022-B.pdf
7. Rosner J, Samardzic T, S. Sarao MS. Physiology, Female Reproduction. StatPearls [Internet]. Updated 2022 Jul 7 [cited 2024 Mar 25]. Available from:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537132/
8. National Cancer Institute. NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms: Cervix [Internet]. National Cancer Institute [cited 2024 Mar 25]. Available from: https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/cervix
9. Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG). Your pelvic floor [Internet]. RCOG [cited 2024 Mar 25]. Available from:https://www.rcog.org.uk/for-the-public/perineal-tears-and-episiotomies-in-childbirth/your-pelvic-floor/
10. National Cancer Institute. NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms: Vagina [Internet]. National Cancer Institute [cited 2024 Mar 25]. Available from:https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/vagina
11. Thiyagarajan DK, Basit H, Jeanmonod R. Physiology, Menstrual Cycle. StatPearls [Internet]. Updated 2022 Oct 24 [cited 2024 Mar 26]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK500020/
12. NHS. Periods and fertility in the menstrual cycle [Internet]. NHS [updated 2023 Jan 5; cited 2024 Mar 26]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/periods/fertility-in-the-menstrual-cycle/
13. National Cancer Institute. NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms: Fertility [Internet]. National Cancer Institute [cited 2024 Mar 25]. Available from: https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/fertility 
 14. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). About Pregnancy [Internet]. NICHD [updated 2017 Jan 31; cited 2024 Mar 26]. Available from: https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/pregnancy/conditioninfo
15. NHS. Overview - Menopause [Internet]. NHS [reviewed 2022 May 17; cited 2024 Mar 26]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/
16. NHS. Early menopause [Internet]. NHS [reviewed 2021 Feb 2; cited 2024 Mar 26]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/early-menopause/
17. NHS Inform. Period pain (dysmenorrhea) [Internet]. NHS Inform [updated 2023 Feb 23; cited 2024 Mar 26]. Available from: https://www.nhsinform.scot/healthy-living/womens-health/girls-and-young-women-puberty-to-around-25/periods-and-menstrual-health/period-pain-dysmenorrhoea/
18. NHS. Why does sex hurt? [Internet]. NHS [updated 2021 May 11; cited 2024 Mar 26]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/sexual-health/why-does-sex-hurt/
19. Newton Long W. Chapter 173: Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding [Internet]. Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations. 3rd edition. [published 1990; cited 2024 Mar 26]. Available from:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK282/
20. NHS. Heavy periods [Internet]. NHS [reviewed 2021 Nov 3; cited 2024 Mar 26]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heavy-periods/
21. Office on Women’s Health (OASH). Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) [Internet]. OASH [reviewed 2021 Feb 22; cited 2024 Mar 26]. Available from: https://www.womenshealth.gov/menstrual-cycle/premenstrual-syndrome/premenstrual-dysphoric-disorder-pmdd
22. Office on Women’s Health (OASH). Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) [Internet]. OASH [reviewed 2021 Feb 22; cited 2024 Mar 26]. Available from: https://www.womenshealth.gov/menstrual-cycle/premenstrual-syndrome
23. Royal United Hospitals Bath – NHS. Information about atrophic vaginitis [Internet]. Royal United Hospitals Bath – NHS [2017 Feb; cited 2024 Mar 26]. Available from: https://www.ruh.nhs.uk/patients/Urology/documents/patient_leaflets/Atrophic_Vaginitis.pdf
24. Bansal R, Aggarwal N. Menopausal Hot Flashes: A Concise Review [Internet]. J Midlife Health [2019; cited 2024 Mar 26]. 10(1): 6-13. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6459071/
25. NHS. Overview – Endometriosis [Internet]. NHS [2022 Sep 5; cited 2024 Mar 26]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/endometriosis/
26. North Devon Healthcare – NHS Trust. Genitourinary syndrome of the menopause (GSM) [Internet]. NHS [cited 2024 Mar 26]. Available from: https://www.royaldevon.nhs.uk/media/zf2gviwo/genitourinary-syndrome-of-the-menopause-gsm.pdf
27. Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause [Internet]. Brigham and Women’s Hospital [cited 2024 Mar 26]. Available from: https://www.brighamandwomens.org/obgyn/urogynecology/genitourinary-syndrome-menopause
28. World Health Organisation (WHO). Polycystic ovary syndrome [Internet]. WHO [2023 28 Jun; cited 2024 Mar 26]. Available from: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/polycystic-ovary-syndrome
29. GOV.UK. Hundreds of thousands of women experiencing menopause symptoms to get cheaper HRT [Internet]. GOV.UK [updated 2023 17 Mar; cited 2024 Mar 26]. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/hundreds-of-thousands-of-women-experiencing-menopause-symptoms-to-get-cheaper-hormone-replacement-therapy
30. NHS. Overview – Hysterectomy [Internet]. NHS [reviewed 2022 Oct 11; cited 2024 26 Mar]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hysterectomy/
31. NHS. Period pain [Internet]. NHS [reviewed 2022 Jul 29; cited 2024 Mar 26]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/period-pain/
32. European Commission. Characteristics. European Commission [cited 2024 Mar 26]. Available from: https://ec.europa.eu/food/food-feed-portal/screen/health-claims/eu-register/details/POL-HC-6346
33. NHS. Things you can do - Menopause [Internet]. NHS [reviewed 2022 May 17; cited 2024 Mar 26]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/things-you-can-do/
34. Ji M, Yu Q. Primary osteoporosis in postmenopausal women [Internet]. Chronic Dis Transl Med. [2015 Mar; cited 2024 Mar 26]. 1(1): 9-13. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5643776/
35. NHS. Physical activity guidelines for older adults [Internet]. NHS [2021 Sep 24; cited 2024 Mar 26]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/physical-activity-guidelines-older-adults/
36. NHS. Feeling sick (nausea) [Internet]. NHS [2023 Nov 17; cited 2024 Mar 26]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/feeling-sick-nausea/
37. European Commission. Characteristics [Internet]. European Commission [cited 2024 Mar 26]. Available from: https://ec.europa.eu/food/food-feed-portal/screen/health-claims/eu-register/details/POL-HC-6498
38. European Commission. Characteristics [Internet]. European Commission [cited 2024 Mar 26]. Available from: https://ec.europa.eu/food/food-feed-portal/screen/health-claims/eu-register/details/POL-HC-6499
39. The Royal Women’s Hospital. Exercise, diet, & periods [Internet]. The Royal Women’s Hospital [cited 2024 Mar 26]. Available from:https://www.thewomens.org.au/health-information/periods/healthy-periods/exercise-diet-periods
40. British Nutrition Foundation (BNF). Pregnancy [Internet]. BNF [cited 2024 Mar 26]. Available from: https://www.nutrition.org.uk/nutrition-for/pregnancy/
41. The Menopause Charity. Staying hydrated [Internet]. The Menopause Charity [cited 2024 Mar 26]. Available from: https://www.themenopausecharity.org/2023/04/06/staying-hydrated/
42. NHS. The Eatwell Guide [Internet]. NHS [reviewed 2022 Nov 29; cited 2024 Mar 26]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/food-guidelines-and-food-labels/the-eatwell-guide/

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