Progesterone replacement therapy (PRT) can help alleviate the bothersome symptoms of menopause. It works by regulating progesterone levels and raising low levels by introducing external progesterone back into the body. Progesterone replacement therapy has also been used to treat PMS syndrome, infertility, and frequent pregnancy loss.
Progesterone is often used with estrogen in hormone replacement therapy (HRT) because it helps stabilize the effects of estrogen, and it can be administered in the form of pills, patches, gels, cream, drops, sublingual oil, and capsules. Many factors influence the choice of administration, such as availability, convenience of use, and cost.
When embarking on a course of progesterone replacement therapy, women may experience a number of side effects. These will differ from those experienced by women undertaking estrogen replacement therapy (ERT), even though the two hormones work in similar ways.
The risks involved in progesterone replacement therapy include: pulmonary embolism, cerebral thrombosis and embolism, neuro-ocular lesions, rise in blood pressure, and hemorrhagic eruption. Taking progesterone alone, combining it with estrogen, or using a synthetic version have all been reported to raise a woman's chances of developing blood clots or breast cancer, or suffering a heart attack or stroke.
For women using synthetic progesterone, there is an increased risk of cancer, abnormal menstrual flow, depression, masculinizing effects, and fluid retention. Doctors are therefore more likely to prescribe natural progesterone, as it is deemed much safer.
Short-Term Side Effects
There are many short-term side effects that can be problematic for women, but they will soon pass. These can be divided into common and uncommon side effects.
Common side effects that women can experience with progesterone replacement therapy include:
Progesterone Replacement Therapy Short-Term Side Effects
- Vaginal bleeding
- Hair Loss
- Fluid retention
- Abdominal cramping
- Muscle pain
Uncommon side effects include abnormal bleeding.
Long-Term Side Effects
These include migraines, headaches, leg or chest pain, problems with vision and dizziness, spotting or regular uterine bleeding, breast tenderness, mood swings, bloating, and headaches.
Women who experience any of the following severe side effects should visit their doctor immediately:
Progesterone Replacement Therapy Long-Term Side Effects
- Severe allergic reactions
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Acute stomach pain
- Mood changes
- Painful or lumpy breasts
- Seizures or tremors
- Swollen ankles or fingers
- Yellowing of the eyes or skin
- Speech problems
Family history plays a role in a woman's susceptibility to the more serious health conditions associated with progesterone replacement therapy, such as cancer and stroke. If a woman has a family history of breast or uterine cancer, stroke, heart disease, or blood clotting, she may want to reconsider it and think about alternate options. Because progesterone can cause fluid retention, it can also influence certain conditions such as epilepsy, renal dysfunction, migraine, asthma, and cardiac dysfunction. Therefore, these require thorough observation.
It is important to speak to a healthcare professional to determine whether or not progesterone replacement therapy is right for you.
Now that the side effects of progesterone replacement therapy have been covered, please read the next section which talks about testosterone replacement therapy.