What is Progesterone?
Progesterone is a steroidal hormone that is created from cholesterol-based pregnenolone. It plays a central role during menstruation and pregnancy. In women, progesterone levels change frequently depending on menopausal stage, ovulation, and pregnancy. Young girls and postmenopausal women have the lowest progesterone levels while pregnant and ovulating women have the highest levels.
It is important that an even balance of estrogen and progesterone is maintained. If there is an imbalance of progesterone, women may experience adverse menopausal signs and symptoms. Low progesterone levels can result in infertility and, in some cases, cancer.
Click on the following link to discover more about progesterone, or read below to learn more about progesterone's role and effects.
Progesterone is an essential hormone that plays different roles in the body and is particularly important during ovulation and pregnancy. Balanced levels of both progesterone and estrogen are crucial.
Progesterone's role in the body
Listed below are some of the ways in which progesterone affects the body:
- Sexual health
- Mood and emotions
- Bone health
During ovulation, progesterone signals the uterus to prepare for a fertilized egg. If an egg is not forthcoming, progesterone withdraws the signal and tells the body to discard the egg.
Progesterone also aids in fat processing and facilitates blood clotting.
Progesterone's effects on the body
Progesterone has a profound effect on many different areas of the body, including the brain, breasts, heart, liver, ovaries, uterus, bones, and vagina. With such a far-reaching influence, it is easy to see why understanding progesterone is important.
Click on the following link to learn about progesterone's role and effects or see below for information about progesterone tests.
Progesterone and Menopause
Menopause signals the end of the reproductive phase, causing the ovaries to slow estrogen and progesterone production. The end of menstruation, while a blessing in some ways, can be accompanied by unpleasant side effects caused by an imbalance of estrogen and progesterone.
Progesterone levels fluctuate during each menopausal stage. See the list below for details.
- During premenopause, blood progesterone content is typically between 8-10 ng/ml. This increases during pregnancy and ovulation.
- During perimenopause, progesterone levels begin to fluctuate more erratically, and may be either high or low.
- During menopause, progesterone levels can vary from 0.1 - 8 ng/ml (low) to 10-16 ng/ml (high).
- During postmenopause women's progesterone levels usually remain stable at 1 ng/ml.
Each menopausal phase features different symptoms, outlined below:
- Premenopause. High libido after ovulation and mood swings during ovulation.
- Perimenopause. Irregular periods, hot flashes, and depression.
Menopause. Continued irregular periods, vaginal infections, and increased risk of uterine cancer.
- Postmenopause. Infertility and weight gain.
Click on the link for more information on progesterone and menopause, or read the next section to gain a better understanding of progesterone deficiency.
A woman's progesterone levels fluctuate depending on stage of the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, menopause, and more. It is important to keep in mind that levels of progesterone will always be higher throughout her gestation period and generally lower throughout the menopausal transition and into postmenopause. Varying levels of progesterone can affect women in different ways, triggering a wide array of hormonal imbalance symptoms. Further information about low progesterone levels and hormonal imbalance can be found below. To read more about progesterone levels and effects of their fluctuations on a woman's health, click on the preceding link.
Low Levels of Progesterone
Low levels of progesterone are the norm during postmenopause, as women leave the reproductive phase and the ovaries slow hormone production. Consequently, women may not produce a sufficient quantity of progesterone.
Some of the signs and symptoms of low progesterone hormone levels are infertility, loss of libido, gallbladder disease, breast tenderness, and mood swings.
Click on the following link for more information about low progesterone levels, or continue reading to learn about the causes of low progesterone levels.
Causes of low progesterone levels
Decreased progesterone levels can be either natural or induced. Natural causes are usually related to menstruation and menopause, whereas induced causes are usually related to poor health.
Natural causes of low progesterone levels include:
- Ovarian slowdown during menopause
- Continued ovarian slowdown during postmenopause
- Post-birth drops in progesterone
Induced causes of low progesterone hormone levels include:
- Poor diet and/or lack of exercise
Click on the following link to learn more about causes of low progesterone levels, or read on to find out about the symptoms of low progesterone levels.
Symptoms of low progesterone levels
There are various symptoms that indicate low progesterone levels.
Symptoms of low progesterone levels include fatigue, headaches, irregular periods, night sweats, hot flashes, mood swings, breast tenderness, and anxiety.
However there are also other, less common, symptoms of low progesterone hormone levels, such as:
- Breast or endometrial cancer
- Gum disease
- Brittle nails
Women who think they may be suffering from low progesterone levels should contact a medical professional immediately to avoid serious or potentially fatal conditions.
Click on the following link to learn more about symptoms of low progesterone levels or continue reading to better understand high progesterone levels.
High Levels of Progesterone
High progesterone levels, caused by a variety of factors including poor diet, lack of exercise, and estrogen deficiency, play important roles during pregnancy and ovulation. Increased levels of progesterone can cause decreased libido, incontinence, vaginal infection, hot flashes, and drowsiness.
Click on the following link to learn more about high progesterone levels or continue reading about the symptoms of progesterone imbalance.
Causes of high progesterone levels
High progesterone levels can be caused by a number of factors and may either be natural or induced.
Natural causes. These causes are typically linked to menopause. For example, this could be due to decreased estrogen production in the ovaries.
Induced causes. This group of causes is usually related to health conditions. For example, a poor diet and lack of exercise place stress on the body and make it harder to effectively balance estrogen and progesterone.
Click on the following link to learn more about causes of high progesterone levels or continue reading to gain an understanding of the various symptoms of progesterone imbalance.
Symptoms of high progesterone levels
Due to the important role that progesterone has in the body, as a steroidal hormone, having high levels of progesterone hormones can cause many different side effects. Although it is normal to have high progesterone hormone levels during pregnancy and ovulation, high progesterone levels can cause serious side effects at other times.
Fatigue is usually the first symptom experienced by women suffering from high progesterone levels. Others include:
- Mood swings
- Breast tenderness
- Vaginal dryness
Other, less common symptoms include acne, urinary infections, incontinence, and migraines.
For more information on the symptoms of high progesterone levels, click on the link or read on for a better understanding of the relationship between progesterone and menopause.
Natural progesterone deficiency occurs when the ovaries produce a deficit of progesterone or a surplus of estrogen. Its causes can be either natural or induced, especially during menopause.
To determine the presence of a progesterone deficiency, saliva and blood tests are available. The results of such tests are typically available within twenty-four hours and can be performed over a period of several days in order to get an accurate representation of hormone fluctuations.
Symptoms of progesterone deficiency include irregular periods, loss of libido, mood swings, night sweats, and increased risk of endometrial cancer.
For more information, visit this comprehensive article on progesterone deficiency, or keep reading to learn about progesterone dominance.
Progesterone dominance usually occurs in menopause due to shifting levels of progesterone and estrogen. If an insufficient quantity of estrogen is produced by the ovaries, progesterone dominance will occur.
Progesterone dominance can also be caused by an unhealthy lifestyle. Without a health-conscious diet and regular, moderate exercise, the body struggles to maintain balanced hormone levels.
Symptoms of progesterone dominance include drowsiness, mood swings, weight gain, vaginal dryness, and incontinence.
Read more at the following link on progesterone dominance, or continue below to learn about progesterone imbalance.
Progesterone imbalance can cause untold misery and serious health conditions. Women who think they may have any hormonal imbalance are encouraged to undergo testing.
There are different types of tests available for measuring progesterone levels. The blood test and the saliva test are detailed below.
- The blood test is an easy, relatively painless way to measure progesterone levels. No oral contraceptives should be taken within twenty-four hours of the test. Results are generally available within one day.
- The saliva test is faster than the blood test and measures the progesterone that is not being used by the body.
Women interested in more extensive progesterone testing should talk to their physician. Oftentimes, blood tests performed over a period of several days can provide a clearer picture of how progesterone levels are fluctuating.
Click on this link to read more about progesterone tests, or continue to the next section to learn about different progesterone levels.
Balanced levels of progesterone and estrogen are vital for, among other things, ovulation and healthy pregnancy. Since progesterone levels fluctuate on a daily basis, hormonal imbalance is always a risk that, if realized, will be accompanied by a number of disagreeable side effects.
There are various causes of progesterone imbalance, though menopause and subsequent ovarian hormone production are most often to blame. Progesterone imbalance can lead to incontinence, breast tenderness, fatigue, night sweats, and vaginal dryness.
To discover more about progesterone imbalance, click on the link, or continue reading below for more information about treating progesterone imbalance.
Progesterone Imbalance Treatments
There are many unpleasant symptoms of progesterone imbalance. Fortunately, there are several treatment options.
Women suffering from progesterone imbalance should begin by making lifestyle changes. Regular, moderate exercise and a balanced diet help keep the body healthy. A healthy body is much better able to maintain hormonal balance.
Natural and alternative treatments
Natural and alternative treatments, which cause fewer side effects than prescription medications, are good for women who wish to avoid introducing foreign chemicals into the body. Natural medications have been reported effective by many women, as have therapies such as acupuncture.
Drugs and HRT
Drugs and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) should be utilized only as a last choice. Prolonged use of either can cause serious and potentially fatal conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and stroke.
Having clear notions of the possibilities available to alleviate progesterone imbalance is essential for women of all ages. Click on the following link to keep learning about treatments of progesterone imbalance.
- Brinton, R.D. et al. (2008). Progesterone receptors: form and function in brain. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, 29(2), 313-339. doi: 10.1016/j.yfrne.2008.02.001
- Cleveland Clinic. (2017). Hormone Therapy. Retrieved July 15, 2019, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/15245-hormone-therapy
- Hormone Health Network. (2017). What is Progesterone? Retrieved July 15, 2019, from http://www.hormone.org/hormones-and-health/hormones/progesterone
- NHS. (2015). Girls and puberty Q&A. Retrieved July 15, 2019, from http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Sexandyoungpeople/Pages/Girlspuberty.aspx
- The North American Menopause Society. (2010). Changes in Hormone Levels. Retrieved July 15, 2019, from https://www.menopause.org/for-women/sexual-health-menopause-online/changes-at-midlife/changes-in-hormone-levels
- PubChem: Open Chemistry Database. (n.d.). Progesterone. Retrieved July 15, 2019, from https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/progesterone#section=Top
- Society of Endocrinology. (2015). Progesterone. Retrieved July 15, 2019, from http://www.yourhormones.info/Hormones/Progesterone.aspx
- Tulane University. (n.d.). Endocrine System: Types of Hormones. Retrieved July 15, 2019, from http://e.hormone.tulane.edu/learning/types-of-hormones.html
- University of Rochester Medical Center: Healthy Encyclopedia. (n.d.). Progesterone. Retrieved July 15, 2019, from https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=167&ContentID=progesterone
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2017). Progesterone. Retrieved July 15, 2019, from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a604017.html
- Women in Balance Institute: National University of Natural Medicine. (n.d.). Progesterone and the Nervous System/Brain | Progesterone & Cardiovascular Health. Retrieved July 15, 2019, from https://womeninbalance.org/resources-research/progesterone-and-the-nervous-systembrain/ | https://womeninbalance.org/resources-research/progesterone-cardiovascular-health/