What Does Progesterone Do?

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By Agata P. | Updated: Dec 11, 2019

What Does Progesterone Do?

Being one of the two most important sex hormones in the body, progesterone is most commonly thought of strictly in terms of reproduction. However, the hormone has several other functions that extend outside the female reproductive system, knowledge of which is key to optimal health.

Keep on reading to find out what does progesterone do in your body and how it contributes to your physical and emotional well-being.

Guides Menstruation

Progesterone is a key hormone during the menstrual cycle. To prepare the body for a possible pregnancy, progesterone - produced by the corpus luteum, a structure made from the remains of the follicle once the egg has been released on ovulation day - thickens the endometrium, or the lining of the uterus.

If pregnancy has not occurred, the corpus luteum will disintegrate, causing a drop in progesterone, which - in turn - will cause the endometrium to shed during the following period.

Maintains Pregnancy

If pregnancy did take place, progesterone continues to be released by the corpus luteum to inhibit the uterine muscles from rejecting the fertilized egg, thus enabling its implantation. It also maintains the endometrial thickness to house and nourish the growing fetus until the placenta takes over its production and fetal development.

Throughout gestation, high progesterone levels stop the body from ovulating as well as prepare the breasts for milk production, while inhibiting lactation until after birth

Regulates Blood Pressure

Progesterone's effects on blood pressure control are most visible in women at two distinct phases of hormonal significance: those during pregnancy whose high progesterone levels are credited for lower blood pressure and those after menopause whose low hormone levels are tied to an increase in blood pressure.1

Supports Cognition

Studies have shown that progesterone also plays a crucial role in supporting the functioning of the nervous system, a function to which it owes being labeled a “neurosteroid.”2 Besides improving cognition and memory, progesterone also protects the brain from damage and aids its repair.

Protects the Bones

Working hand-in-hand with estrogen, progesterone helps increase bone mineral density, thus reducing the risk of fractures. These effects are especially evident in postmenopausal women, whose low estrogen and progesterone levels put them at risk of osteoporosis and related fractures.

Lowers Cancer Risk

On its own, progesterone has not been found to contribute to the reduction of cancer risk. However, because its mechanism of action is to offset estrogen, progesterone plays a role in cancer prevention by counterbalancing the negative effects of high estrogen levels.

Conclusions

Because progesterone's roles in the body are vast, as shown above, putting effort into maintaining its healthy levels throughout the various stages in a woman's life is of the utmost importance. Women of reproductive age can benefit from various approaches on how to maintain healthy levels of progesterone, while those with a confirmed imbalance due to menopause or other factors can find relief by increasing progesterone levels with lifestyle changes, alternative medicine, or medications. With the right mindset and dedication, freedom from hormonal imbalance is within reach!