What is Progesterone?
Progesterone is a hormone which is mainly produced by the corpus luteum in the ovary after ovulation, stimulating and regulating various functions in the body. Progesterone is also produced in smaller quantities from the ovaries themselves, the adrenal glands and, during pregnancy, from the placenta.
Progesterone Levels in Women
Progesterone helps prepare the body for pregnancy and conception, regulates the menstrual cycle and impacts your libido. If your progesterone levels are low, you may have difficulty getting or staying pregnant.
Progesterone levels fluctuate throughout your menstrual cycle. Your levels rise each month during the second half of the menstrual cycle, about seven days before your period. That’s because one of this hormone’s most important functions is to cause the uterine lining to secrete special proteins to prepare it for an implanted fertilised egg. If the lining isn’t thick enough, implantation won’t happen.
During the early stages of pregnancy, the corpus luteum continues to produce progesterone until the placenta is established when it will take over progesterone production, around 8-12 weeks into the pregnancy. Progesterone levels remain high during pregnancy and are even higher if you’re having multiples. While the body is producing high levels of Progesterone, the body will not ovulate.
During pregnancy progesterone plays an important part in the development of the foetus, growth of milk-producing glands in the breast, prevents lactation and prepares the pelvic wall muscles in preparation for labour.
If a fertilised egg does not implant in the uterine wall, your estrogen and progesterone levels drop. Your uterine lining breaks down, and you get your period.
“Normal” progesterone levels depend on a person’s age, where a woman is in her menstrual cycle and whether she is pregnant.
What are the Symptoms of Low progesterone?
Progesterone and estrogen hormones complement one another. So, when you don’t have enough progesterone, estrogen dominates which can lead to symptoms such as:
If you’re pregnant, you need progesterone to maintain your uterus until you give birth. If your levels are too low, you may be unable to carry the baby to term.
Some symptoms of low progesterone levels in pregnant women include:
Diagnosing Low Progesterone
Your GP or health care provider can take a simple blood test called a PGSN, or progesterone test. This test can assess if your progesterone levels are too low. It can help your GP figure out why you’re having trouble getting pregnant, confirm if you’ve ovulated, monitor hormone replacement therapy (see below) and assess the status of a high-risk pregnancy.
Low Progesterone Treatment
Several types of treatments can help address low progesterone symptoms. Progesterone used for medical use are called progestogens and are available as a synthetic version (progestins) or derived from plants, often called “natural progesterone”. Progestogens are used to imitate the functions of progesterone naturally produced by the body. They can be taken orally, as a topical cream, as a vaginal gel pessary or by injection, depending on the symptoms or condition an individual is experiencing.
If you’re having difficulty to conceive. Hormone therapy can help increase progesterone and thicken your uterine lining possibly improving your chances of conception.
Hormone therapy can also be given if you suffer with severe symptoms of PMS/PMT, menstrual or bleeding problems and endometriosis. If you receive hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to alleviate menopausal symptoms you are likely be a given a combination of progesterone and estrogen, as estrogen alone increase the risk of uterine cancer.
Progestogens are also used in the treatment of breast, kidney and uterine cancer. They can also help with weight and appetite loss in AIDS and cancer patients.
Often side effects subside after a reasonable time of continued use, however, if you experience any of the following:-
More serious but less common side effects:-
Speak to your GP who can provide advice and reassurance. If necessary they may be able to move you onto a different progestogen which can help treat your condition with few side effects.
If you are seeking treatment for a condition which may benefit from the treatment of progesterone ensure you inform your GP or health care professional of any medical conditions you may have and any medicines you are taking. Some of the existing medical conditions which must be taken into account before prescribing progestogen products are :-
Using Progesterone for Birth Control
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