High Progesterone Levels: About & Causes

By SheCares Editorial Team | Updated: Aug 28, 2019

Just as progesterone levels can fall below desired levels, the opposite is also true, and high progesterone levels' repercussions can be just as harmful to a woman's mental and physical health if unmanaged.

Therefore, to begin living an improved quality of life or learn more about how to prevent unhealthy hormonal fluctuations, continue reading to learn more about high progesterone levels and its causes.

About High Progesterone Levels

Throughout a woman's life, it is normal for monthly progesterone levels to range from 0.1 - 25 ng/mL, depending upon age and stage in the menstrual cycle.

The presence of excess progesterone is commonly believed to be caused strictly by excessive administration of or supplementation with progesterone products. However, abnormal variations can be caused by a number of factors.

Causes of High Progesterone Levels

Many cases of high progesterone levels are reported in otherwise healthy women over the age of 35. Oftentimes, women who experience high levels of progesterone assume the symptoms are due to approaching middle age or menopause, which is when hormonal fluctuations are known to occur, leaving the problem untreated.

In other instances, these women incorrectly interpret their progesterone surge as a deficiency, eventually exacerbating the condition by augmenting the amount of the hormone within the body.

Fortunately, by understanding the causes of high progesterone levels, it is possible to overcome them.


Natural Causes of High Progesterone Levels

During Adulthood (20s to 40s)

Naturally, progesterone should be highest during the second half of the menstrual cycle as it is produced by the corpus luteum, a temporary structure that evolves after ovulation. This progesterone is used to maintain the uterine lining.

High progesterone levels during pregnancy

If conception doesn't occur, the uterine lining sheds during menstruation, only for the cycle to begin again. However, if conception does occur with pregnancy, the corpus luteum will continue to produce progesterone until the placenta takes over production around the tenth week of gestation.

During Perimenopause and After Menopause (40s on up)

Often one of the first signals that a woman is going through menopause is irregular and anovulatory periods. Menstrual cycles in which there is no ovulation lead to a drop in the majority of progesterone produced, causing increased estrogen levels.

However, the inverse can also occur in which a woman has lower levels of estrogen, meaning her progesterone levels will dominate with any fluctuation. During this time, women going through the menopausal transition whose progesterone levels are higher in relation to low estrogen levels may experience symptoms such as depression, drowsiness, and headaches.

If suspicion of a progesterone imbalance occurs before the normal age of menopause, it is advised for women to receive further diagnosis.


Lifestyle Factors that Cause High Progesterone Levels

There are also a variety of lifestyle factors that can cause elevated progesterone. Some of them include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Smoking. Smoking increases adrenal activity, and elevations in adrenal androgens are seen mostly among postmenopausal smokers. Also, reported elevated serum progesterone levels have been measured during the early follicular phase of the menstrual cycle, which is when most of the progesterone produced originates from the adrenal glands.

  • Caffeine. Studies have shown a trend for high circulating progesterone levels with the consumption of excessive caffeine, but not with coffee intake. Caffeine depletes the body's B vitamin stores and hinders healthy liver function, further increasing progesterone levels through improper detoxification from the body.


Induced Causes of High Progesterone Levels

Various treatments, medications, and environmental exposures can cause women to have elevated progesterone levels, including: 

  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT). After menopause, many women turn to progesterone replacement therapy to sustain premenopausal levels. However, while receiving HRT, levels could become fundamentally disproportionate. This could increase a woman's chances of contracting progesterone dominance symptoms, such as bloating and fluid retention among others.

  • Other exogenous hormones. Due to large amounts of estrogens and progesterone present in commercial cow's milk, there is a significant increase in serum estrone and progesterone concentrations in consumers. All types of estrogen and pregnanediol - an inactive metabolic product of progesterone - have also been found in tested consumer urine concentrations.


Other Causes of High Progesterone Levels

Moreover, the following condition can prompt high progesterone levels in women:

  • Congenital adrenal hyperplasia. High levels of progesterone are a consequence of an inherited condition known as congenital adrenal hyperplasia. A fetus affected by this condition will produce excessive male hormones during development. For females, this manifests as hirsutism and oligomenorrhea due to excess adrenal androgen and progesterone.

Paying attention to hormonal levels is important before conditions develop into more serious complications. Continue reading to learn more about the signs and symptoms of high progesterone.

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