Pack of estrogen medication that can cause high estrogen levels in women

What Causes High Estrogen Levels in Women?

Updated on February 3, 2024. Written on March 2, 2023 by Sendra Yang, PharmD, MBA. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

Table of contents

What is Estrogen?

Estrogen is a sex hormone made by the body that has a central role in reproductive health not only for women but also for men [1-3]. However, estrogen is known more as a female hormone. There are three key forms of estrogen [1,4]:

  • Estrone (also known as E1): After menopause, it is the only estrogen hormone made by women.
  • Estradiol (also known as E2): In nonpregnant, childbearing women, this is the primary estrogen hormone. It is essential in fertility and helps brain and bone health.
  • Estriol (also known as E3): In pregnancy, this estrogen hormone increases in women.

Estrogen helps to develop and maintain female sex characteristics [1,3,4]. Additionally, the hormone affects other biological processes, including the skeletal and immune systems [2]. Estrogen functions by binding to two receptors, estrogen receptor alpha and estrogen receptor beta, in various cells throughout the body. The estrogen attaching to either one of these receptors will lead to multiple effects that can be good or bad for you [4]. Having too much or too little estrogen in your body can produce chronic or acute diseases.

During the female reproductive years, estrogen is primarily produced in the ovaries [1]. Estrogen is also released by your adrenal glands (located on top of your kidneys) and fat tissues. Throughout pregnancy, the placenta, which is the organ that surrounds the fetus and provides it with nutrients from the mother, secretes estrogen.

Normal Estrogen Levels in Women

Normal estrogen levels for women fluctuate up and down throughout life and are dependent on what stage of life you are currently in [1]. Normal estrogen levels rise during puberty and decline as you approach menopause. Levels also typically increase during ovulation and decrease when you have your period. A consistently or extremely high or low estrogen level may signify other health conditions.

Measuring Estrogen Levels

Estrogen levels are usually measured with a simple blood test and sent to a lab for analysis [1]. The estrogen lab test can measure your estrone, estradiol, or estriol levels. Other samples can also be used to measure your estrogen levels, such as urine or saliva [5]. The test results may vary based on a few parameters, including your age, medical history, and the differences in the lab and type of test used to measure the levels.

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High Estrogen Symptoms in Women

Symptoms of high estrogen in women may include [1,4,6,7]:

  • A decrease in sex drive
  • Weight gain around the waist and hips
  • Unpredictable, light, or heavy menstrual periods
  • Premenstrual syndrome worsening
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Headaches
  • Sleeping difficulty
  • Depression or anxiousness
  • Tiredness
  • Dense breast tissue
  • Breast cysts

Causes of High Estrogen in Women

There are several causes of elevated estrogen levels in women. Your body may be making too much estrogen, you may be getting too much estrogen from other sources, like your medicine, or your body may be having issues breaking down and removing the estrogen from your body [1,4,6].

Some factors that contribute to a high estrogen level in women may include [4,6]:

  • Some medications can impact estrogen levels, such as hormonal birth control.
  • Since fat tissues release estrogen, increased body fat can lead to higher estrogen levels.
  • Stress also impacts your estrogen levels through cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone produced as a response to stress. High cortisol can lead to a low progesterone level, limiting your body’s ability to produce estrogen.
  • Alcohol can raise estrogen levels and inhibit estrogen from being broken down.
  • Synthetic chemicals that act like estrogen, or xenoestrogens, can mimic estrogen, giving the impression that your estrogen levels are increased. Xenoestrogens can be found in some plastics, cleaning products, soaps, and shampoos.

Risks Associated With High Levels of Estrogen

High estrogen levels can negatively impact reproductive health, cause unpleasant symptoms, and escalate the risk of certain diseases [6]. Elevated estrogen levels in women have been linked to conditions such as polyps, fibroids, PCOS, endometriosis pain, and ovarian tumors [1]. Other conditions associated with high estrogen levels include dementia, heart disease, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, insulin resistance, and uterine cancer [4,6]. Excess estrogen is sometimes referred to as “estrogen dominance.” This is where not enough progesterone is produced to balance the amount of estrogen in the body. Stable estrogen and progesterone levels usually work together to regulate female sexual health.

Ways to Maintain Normal Estrogen Levels

  • Medications: If you're taking medications that are causing excess estrogen production, your healthcare provider may want to adjust your prescription [6]. There are also drugs you can take that stop estrogen production and release to help keep levels normal.
  • Lifestyle changes: You can lower your estrogen levels by reducing your body fat, relieving stress, limiting alcohol, eating healthy, and decreasing exposure to xenoestrogens [1,6].

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Next Steps

It’s important you know that high estrogen levels can have multiple unpleasant symptoms and lead to various health issues. If you experience some signs and symptoms of elevated estrogen, you should contact your healthcare provider. Your provider can order appropriate testing (such as a Women's Hormone Test) and speak to you more about your individual situation.

At Everlywell, you can schedule a meeting with a certified healthcare provider through our women’s telehealth service to discuss your health concerns. The provider will be able to evaluate your symptoms and offer guidance on the next steps, which may include prescriptions, testing, or lifestyle changes.

What are normal estradiol levels in women?

How to lower estrogen: what you need to know

What causes high estradiol levels in males?

Does estrogen make you gain weight?


  1. Estrogen. Cleveland Clinic. Updated February 8, 2022. Medical Citation URL. Accessed February 2, 2024.
  2. Marie JC, Bonnelye E. Effects of Estrogens on Osteoimmunology: A Role in Bone Metastasis. Front Immunol. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2022.899104. Published May 23, 2022. Medical Citation URL. Accessed February 2, 2024.
  3. NCI Dictionary of Cancer terms. National Cancer Institute. Medical Citation URL. Accessed February 2, 2024.
  4. Patel S, Homaei A, Raju AB, Meher BR. Estrogen: The necessary evil for human health, and ways to tame it. Biomed Pharmacother. 2018;102:403-411. doi: 10.1016/j.biopha.2018.03.078.
  5. Estrogen levels test: MedlinePlus medical test. MedlinePlus. Medical Citation URL. Accessed February 2, 2024.
  6. High estrogen: Causes, symptoms, dominance & treatment. Cleveland Clinic. Updated February 9, 2022. Medical Citation URL. Accessed February 2, 2024.
  7. Endocrine Society. Reproductive hormones. Endocrine Society. Published January 24, 2022. Medical Citation URL. Accessed February 2, 2024.

Sendra Yang, PharmD, MBA received her Doctor of Pharmacy and Master of Business Administration degrees from Wingate University School of Pharmacy. She is a skilled medical information professional with nearly 10 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry, pharmacy education (including as an Assistant Clinical Professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin), and clinical practice. She has also been a medical writer and editor for consumer health and medical content. Sendra is passionate about translating complex medical concepts into simple and easy-to-understand information.
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