Progesterone: Understanding this Critical Hormone

Written by - Reviewed by Consumer Health Digest Team

Published: Jul 31, 2013 | Last Updated: Sep 26, 2018


What is Progesterone?

Progesterone is a steroid hormone and belongs to a class of hormones referred to as progestogens. It is crucial in regulating the female reproductive cycle by regulating the condition of the lining of the uterus as well as supporting pregnancy. Progesterone is present in both men and women along with children.

What are the Sources of Progesterone in Women?

Progesterone occurs naturally in a woman’s body and is produced by the ovaries. The adrenal glands also produce small amounts of progesterone. During pregnancy, the placenta is the primary producer of progesterone as well as estrogen. Like other steroid hormones, progesterone is synthesized in humans and other animals by the oxidation of cholesterol.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Low Progesterone in Women?

Progesterone does not play the same roles as estrogen and should not be considered a hormone for femininity. If anything, it is meant to control the levels of estrogen by countering the negative effects of too much estrogen in both men and women. Therefore, women who have progesterone deficiency tend to manifest symptoms of estrogen dominance syndrome. The symptoms of progesterone deficiency include:

  • Premenstrual syndrome
  • Low libido
  • Headaches
  • Breast pain and or tenderness
  • Depression
  • Hot flashes
  • Miscarriages
  • Irregular menstruation and heavy bleeding

What are the Different Types of Progesterone Supplements?

There are three types of progesterone supplements that are available. They are prescribed to patients depending on the special needs of the patient for instance if the patient is pregnant or menopausal. Therefore, it is important to consult your physician rather than buying over the counter supplements. The three supplements include:

1. Progestins:

Progestins are the synthetic versions of progesterone. Progestins were bioengineered in the 1950s. They are quite effective in hormone replacement therapy.

2. Naturally Derived Progesterone:

Progesterone can be derived from its natural sources in order to administer to patients who have a progesterone deficiency. This is a more recent development and this progesterone is mostly derived from yams.

3. Topical Creams:

Topical creams that are specially formulated with just the right amount of hormones are a great option for those who have reservations about swallowing tablets and the possible effects on the gastrointestinal tract. Ideally, these creams should be applied on the mucous membrane of the vagina and uterus. Sometimes these areas are hard to reach and your doctor may recommend applying them on your skin. This technique has been criticized as it may lead to too much progesterone in the system. A good way to counter this possible side effect is by using the cream periodically and then stopping. If you opt for topical creams, discuss all the possibilities with your doctor and stay safe.

Natural progesterone and synthetic progestins are more popularly used in hormone replacement therapy. Administration could be in form of tablets, injections or patches. In addition, oral contraceptives which mostly contain progestins may also be prescribed. The combined pill which contains both estrogen and progesterone is preferred. This is because a balance between the two hormones is crucial to a woman’s overall well being. Sometimes the mini pill, an oral contraceptive containing only progesterone may be prescribed depending on how severe the deficiency is.

Benefits of Progesterone Supplementation

Progesterone supplementation is used to treat progesterone deficiency and estrogen dominance syndrome. It has various benefits which include:

  • Enhances a woman’s sex drive
  • Counteracts depression that is, acts as an antidepressant
  • Helps to prevent uterine and breast cancer
  • Stabilizes blood clotting action
  • Stabilizes blood sugar levels

Side Effects of too Much Progesterone

When your doctor prescribes progesterone tablets, it is crucial to follow his or her exact instructions. Some side effects may occur and are common with all women who use progesterone supplements. They include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Constipation
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Breast tenderness
  • Joint pains and muscle aches

Some side effects may also occur as a result of misusing the supplements, an overdose or simply to indicate that you are allergic. If they occur, consult your doctor immediately as failure to do so could be fatal. They are as follows:

  • Migraines
  • Swelling of any kind
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Seizures
  • Weakness or numbness
  • Eye sight difficulties
  • Lumps in the breast
  • Speech difficulties
  • Difficulty in swallowing or breathing

How to Increase Progesterone Levels Naturally?

Progesterone levels can be boosted naturally though this may not produce instant and significant effects compared to taking supplements. Progesterone levels can be increased naturally by:

  • Increasing dairy products intake. Dairy products are said to contain naturally occurring progesterone
  • Increasing soy products intake. Soya beans are a source of sigmasterol which is used to manufacture progesterone in the lab
  • Wild yams should also be consumed as they are said to help boost progesterone levels

Progesterone Levels in Early Pregnancy

Progesterone levels tend to rise after ovulation. However, if pregnancy occurs, the levels tend to surge up particularly during the twelfth week of pregnancy when the placenta starts producing high levels of progesterone. This is because progesterone is crucial in the maintenance of pregnancy without which miscarriages will occur. The levels are kept elevated throughout the pregnancy and are lowered after childbirth.

What is Progesterone Allergy?

Progesterone allergy in clinical terms is often referred to as autoimmune progesterone dermatitis. It is a condition whereby a woman is allergic to her own hormones that is, progesterone. Though progesterone allergy is rare, it is often manifested with skin rashes and other skin irritations. The condition was quite recently discovered and the cause is not entirely known. Some studies claim that the immune system of patients who suffer from this condition confuses progesterone with toxins particularly when it is combined with estrogen to form large molecules.

The best way to know if you are suffering from progesterone allergy or intolerance is if you suffer from rashes during menstruation or pregnancy. Women who think they have this condition should consult a physician to get proper treatment. Reducing the intake of progesterone supplements and dairy products are said to be quite effective.

How to Treat Progesterone Deficiency?

Progesterone deficiency is treated by hormone replacement therapy. This therapy entails administering synthetic or natural occurring progesterone through oral contraceptives, topical creams, injections or patches.

In conclusion, progesterone is a very important hormone particularly to the female reproductive system. Fluctuations of this hormone can have fatal consequences and a doctor should be consulted. Having a healthy lifestyle goes a long way in ensuring hormonal balance and good health in general.

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