Oestrogen is a group of hormones, which are primarily responsible for the development of female sex organs and sexual characteristics. Oestrogen production is triggered by FSH (follicle stimulating hormone); the hormone is produced by the ovaries. When oestrogen levels reach a certain concentration, the hypothalamus starts to produce LH (luteinising hormones) and this stimulates the ovaries to release the egg.

There are three main forms of oestrogen, known as oestrone (E1), oestradiol (E2) and oestriol (E3); different forms of oestrogen are involved in different activities and changes in the levels may cause different health problems.

When is the test used?

Oestradiol levels are measured to test the function of the ovaries; the test is usually ordered when a girl shows very early signs of puberty or to find the reason behind amenorrhoea, which occurs when the periods are suppressed. The test may be ordered if the patient has symptoms, including:

  • Night sweats
  • Irregular periods
  • Heaviness in the pelvic area
  • Abnormal periods
  • Hot flushes
  • Disturbed sleep patterns

Oestriol, along with other tests, including AFP and hCG, is used to assess the risk of foetal defects or abnormalities. The test may be ordered if a woman is having trouble conceiving

Oestrone is sometimes measured to help a doctor diagnose an ovarian tumour; it may also be used to test for hypopituitarism. The test may be ordered as part of a routine screening programme during pregnancy; the test is usually carried out between the 15th and 20th week.

How is the test performed?

The test is performed by taking a sample of the patient’s blood; the sample is usually taken from a needle on the inside of the patient’s elbow. A needle is inserted into the vein and the blood is collected in a syringe; once the sample has been collected it will be placed in a bottle, labelled and sent off to the laboratory for testing.

What do the test results mean?

The test results may indicate a range of metabolic conditions and levels tend to increase and decrease depending on when the test is done; it is important that the results are examined in context with the individual’s general health, menstrual cycle, stage of pregnancy (if relevant), age and medical history.

Health conditions including kidney disease, anaemia, liver problems and high blood pressure may affect oestrogen levels.

Specific Blood Tests

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