Difference between Estrogen and Progesterone

Updated on December 12, 2017

You know that estrogen is the main feminine hormone, while testosterone is the main masculine hormone. But what is progesterone and where does it come in your so well organized system of knowing one hormone for each sex? Well, you may have been blindsided but all is not lost! Here is what you need to know about estrogen and progesterone, the two main feminine hormones.



Estrogen is the primary feminine sex hormone. The word comes from Greek and it means “oistros”, meaning verve or frenzy, and it refers to sexual energy, passion and desire, and “-gen” which means “producer of”. Estrogen is the steroid hormone responsible for the development of the female reproductive system and it plays an important part in keeping the entire body in check:

  • Growth of the breasts
  • Start of the menstrual cycle
  • Keeps cholesterol under control
  • Protects bones, heart, skin and other tissues.

Estrogen is produced by the adrenal glands located above the kidneys, and by the fat tissue. Low levels of estrogen mean low sexual drive, mood swings, less frequent menstrual cycles, dryness and thinning of the vagina. Too much estrogen means heavy bleeding during menstruation, weight gain, loss of sex drive, fatigue, fibrocystic breasts (cysts that are not cancerous). The levels of estrogen vary during the menstrual cycle, being higher at the middle and lowest during the period and during menopause.

Although estrogen is identified as the female hormone, men’s bodies produce it as well but in smaller quantities. In the case of the male body, too much estrogen can lead to infertility, growth of breast tissues (known as man breasts) or erectile dysfunction.

Progesterone is another female hormone. It belongs to a group of steroid hormones called progestogens and it is released by the corpus luteum in the ovary. The corpus luteum is a compound of remnants of the ovarian follicle that enclosed the developing egg which was released during the menstrual cycle. This process also stimulates the production of progesterone and of another hormone called oestradiol. If the egg is not fertilized, the production of progesterone falls and a new menstrual cycle begins, and if the egg is fertilized, the progesterone starts working to prepare the womb by stimulating the growth of blood vessels lining it, stimulating the nourishing glands and working to establish the placenta. Once formed, the placenta will start producing progesterone, which is then directed toward helping the foetus develop.

Apart from the corpus luteum, progesterone is also produced in smaller amounts by the adrenal glands. There are no known medical problems related to having too much progesterone. However, too low progesterone may cause miscarriages in pregnant women, heavy bleeding during menstruation and irregular menstruation. Women with polycystic ovary syndrome are known to have lower levels of progesterone in their blood, a sign that the body has failed to release an egg at ovulation.

Despite the fact that progesterone is identified as being the pregnancy hormone, men’s bodies have it, too. It works like testosterone as it enhances the libido, improves the mood, helps keep the weight down, strengthens the bones, gives more energy and makes erections stronger.

Estrogen vs Progesterone

So what is the difference between estrogen and progesterone?

Both of them are steroid hormones and both have very important functions in female bodies. While estrogen is the hormone regulating the entire menstrual cycle, progesterone is the hormone that supports pregnancy. More than placing one in contrast with the other, these two hormones work together and are responsible for all of the changes which take place in the body during pregnancy. They do everything from increasing blood circulation to causing notable skin discoloration and the softening of cartilage.

Estrogen and progesterone can also work together to stop a pregnancy, as they are the main ingredients of contraceptive pills, the 100% efficient birth control option. By regulating various dosages of the two hormones, certain conditions like heavy bleeding during menstruation, headache and acne can also be treated with contraceptive pills.

As far as men’s bodies go, they seem to have a better time with progesterone production, which works wonders for them, unlike the case of estrogen, which can give them a taste of what being a woman is like. The pregnancy hormone works very well with testosterone and to the advantage of men.

Comparison Chart

A steroid hormoneA steroid hormone
Produced by the adrenal glandsProduced by the corpus luteum , the placenta and the adrenal glands
Controls and regulates all female reproductive functionsHelps the body support the pregnancy
In men, in large quantities creates unbalancesIn men, works together with testosterone and has a lot of benefits
Part of the contraceptive mix of the pillPart of the contraceptive mix of the pill
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