Estrogen & Progesterone: Their Rise & Fall Over a Female's Lifetime

Medically Reviewed by Felicia Newell, RD

August 21, 2023

Estrogen and progesterone are two sex hormones that play a huge role throughout a woman’s life. The biggest thing to be aware of is when—and how much—these hormones fluctuate, and what symptoms those fluctuations may bring up (think: sleep disturbances, metabolic changes, and hair loss).

This ebb and flow of estrogen and progesterone typically happens during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause (1). But it can also be caused by lifestyle factors and certain health conditions.

As a registered dietitian specializing in women’s health, I see the impact of imbalanced hormones quite frequently. And in this article, I’ll be sharing why having balanced hormones is so important, the steps you can take to achieve healthy hormones, and which estrogen and progesterone levels you should aim for.

What Are Healthy Estrogen & Progesterone Levels by Age?

Estrogen and progesterone are two vital hormones that regulate various functions in the female body. Here’s how they fluctuate throughout each phase of a woman’s life.

Estrogen Levels Throughout Female Life

Typically, estrogen is measured by evaluating the estradiol level in the body.

Normal levels for estradiol are (2): 

  • 30 to 400 pg/mL for premenopausal women 
  • 50 to 400 pg/mL during the menstrual cycle (peaking during ovulation)
  • 0 to 30 pg/mL for postmenopausal women 
  • 10 to 50 pg/mL for men

Progesterone Levels During the Menstrual Cycle

Progesterone levels range from 1 to 28 ng/mL during the menstrual cycle, peaking in the luteal phase. Normal progesterone levels during this time are:

  • Less than 0.89 pg/mL before ovulation
  • Less than 12 pg/mL during ovulation
  • Between 1.8 and 24 pg/mL after ovulation

Progesterone Levels During Pregnancy

Normal progesterone levels during pregnancy are:

  • Between 11 and 44 pg/mL during the first trimester
  • Between 25 and 83 pg/mL during the second trimester
  • Between 58 and 214 pg/mL during the third trimester

Progesterone Levels During Perimenopause, Menopause, & Postmenopause

  • Perimenopause: levels could be anywhere from 0.89 to 24 ng/mL (it’s normal for progesterone levels to fluctuate from high to low during this time of life)
  • Menopause: levels are typically 0.20 ng/mL or lower
  • Postmenopause: levels generally decrease to less than 1 ng/mL (3).

Why You Need Healthy Estrogen & Progesterone Levels For Your Age

Maintaining healthy levels of estrogen and progesterone is crucial at any age as they play key roles in regulating reproductive health and overall wellbeing in women. These hormones contribute to the regulation of the menstrual cycle, maintaining pregnancy, and preparing the body for conception. 

Additionally, they are involved in non-reproductive health functions such as regulating cholesterol levels, protecting bone health, and contributing to skin elasticity. Imbalances or drastic changes in these hormone levels can lead to symptoms such as mood swings, hot flashes, fatigue, and conditions like osteoporosis or heart disease, especially in postmenopausal women (4, 5).

Why Do Estrogen & Progesterone Levels Change With Age?

Estrogen and progesterone levels naturally change as women age, primarily due to the body transitioning towards menopause. During the reproductive years, the production of these hormones is led by the ovaries and is closely linked to the menstrual cycle. 

As a woman approaches menopause, typically in her late 40s or early 50s, the ovaries gradually decrease hormone production. This transition phase, known as perimenopause, can result in fluctuating and generally decreasing levels of estrogen and progesterone. It's these changes that often lead to the symptoms associated with menopause, such as hot flashes and night sweats. 

After menopause, the ovaries produce very little of these hormones, leading to lower overall levels. Other factors, such as lifestyle, genetics, and overall health, can also influence how these hormone levels change with age (6).

What Are Considered Low Estrogen & Progesterone Levels?

Low levels of estrogen and progesterone vary from person to person and can depend on factors such as age, menstrual cycle, and overall health. Typically, for adult women, progesterone levels lower than 1 ng/mL and estrogen levels below 50 pg/mL might be considered low. 

However, these levels can significantly change based on the phase of the menstrual cycle. For example, during the luteal phase, normal progesterone levels can range from 2 to 25 ng/mL. In the case of estrogen, it varies drastically throughout the menstrual cycle, going from 30 to 400 pg/mL. After menopause, the normal ranges change, with lower levels generally considered normal.

What Is Considered High Estrogen & Progesterone?

High levels of estrogen and progesterone vary among individuals, but generally, progesterone levels higher than 25 ng/mL and estrogen levels over 400 pg/mL might be considered elevated. These hormone levels can surge during certain phases of the menstrual cycle, such as the luteal phase for progesterone and the ovulatory phase for estrogen. 

However, persistently high levels of these hormones can indicate certain health conditions. For instance, high progesterone levels might be associated with dysfunction of the adrenal glands or ovaries, or may indicate pregnancy. High estrogen levels might be due to conditions such as estrogen-secreting tumors, liver disease, or certain genetic disorders. 

How Can I Test for Low Estrogen & Progesterone?

There are several ways to test for low estrogen and progesterone levels. The most common method is through a blood test. This procedure involves drawing a small sample of blood and sending it to a laboratory for analysis. The blood test is typically done at certain times of your menstrual cycle, usually on the 21st day or during the week leading up to your next period. 

Another method is a saliva test, which measures the hormones available for use in your body's tissues. This test can be done at home, and involves spitting into a tube that is then mailed to a laboratory for analysis. Urine tests can also be used to measure hormone levels. This involves collecting all urine produced in a 24 hour period for laboratory analysis. 

Regardless of the testing method, it's important to discuss your symptoms and concerns with a healthcare provider who can interpret the results and guide you with the next steps.

How Often Should You Test Your Estrogen & Progesterone?

The frequency of testing for estrogen and progesterone levels is highly individualized and depends on various factors such as your age, health status, and specific symptoms. As a general guideline, women experiencing symptoms of hormonal imbalance or those on hormone replacement therapy might benefit from regular testing, which could be every 3-6 months.

For women in their reproductive years, hormone level tests may be recommended at specific times during the menstrual cycle. For postmenopausal women, testing frequency will depend on their symptoms and treatment plan. 

Ultimately, the decision should be made in consultation with a healthcare provider who understands your unique health circumstance.

Does the Time You Test Your Estrogen & Progesterone Matter?

The timing of testing for progesterone and estrogen levels does indeed matter. Progesterone, for instance, is often tested about a week before the expected start of the menstrual period, typically on day 21 of a 28-day cycle. This timing aligns with when progesterone production is at its peak within the menstrual cycle. 

Estrogen, on the other hand, tends to fluctuate throughout the cycle and may be tested at various points depending on the particular concerns or symptoms. Your healthcare provider should be aware of the importance of proper timing and plan accordingly.

Other Factors That Can Impact Hormone Levels

Beyond the impact age can have on hormone levels, there are outside factors that can cause a person’s estrogen and/or progesterone to become off-balance. 

Lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, sleep patterns, and stress levels can have a profound impact on hormone levels. Specifically, excessive intake of processed foods and caffeine, lack of physical activity, irregular sleep, and high-stress levels can all interfere with hormone regulation. 

Additionally, certain health conditions and medications can impact hormonal balance. Conditions like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), thyroid disorders, and obesity are known to affect hormone levels (7). Medications like birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy can also be linked to imbalances. 

Lastly, environmental factors and exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in certain plastics, cosmetics, and pesticides can negatively influence hormone levels. It's important to note that the impact of these factors can vary significantly from person to person.

Natural Strategies to Support Hormonal Balance

There are several natural strategies to maintain a healthy hormonal balance. One of the most important aspects is maintaining a well-balanced diet. Consuming a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can help support overall hormonal health (8). Limiting intake of processed foods and caffeine can also be beneficial. 

Regular exercise is another key factor. Physical activity helps to regulate hormone levels and can also assist in weight maintenance, which is crucial as both obesity and being underweight can cause hormonal imbalances. Additionally, a consistent sleep pattern and stress management techniques, such as breathwork, meditation, and yoga, can contribute to hormonal balance. 

Avoiding exposure to potential endocrine-disruptors, such as certain plastics, pesticides, and artificial fragrances, can also play a role in maintaining hormonal health. However, it's always important to consult with a healthcare provider before making any significant changes to diet or lifestyle.

Lauren Manaker, RDN
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Lauren Manaker, RDN

Lauren Manaker is an award-winning registered dietitian (RDN), certified lactation educator (CLE), author, and speaker with over 20 years of experience. She earned her BS in Food Science and Human Nutrition from the University of Florida (go Gators!) and an MS in Clinical Nutrition from Rush University in Chicago.

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    Medical Disclaimer

    This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.

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