Menopause begins when the ovaries permanently halt egg release. Because of the accompanying cessation of menstruation, infertility follows and many women are beset by a range of unpleasant side effects.
On average, women reach menopause around age 52. During perimenopause, the stage occurring prior to menopause, women's ovaries begin to shut down, significantly decreasing production of estrogen and progesterone. Women may begin to experience irregular periods and an array of other symptoms. As the ovaries slow and eventually halt progesterone production, infertility inevitably results.
In addition to pregnancy and menstruation, progesterone also affects the health of bones, the liver, and the immune system. The decline in progesterone levels often results in the symptoms of menopause.
Fluctuations of Progesterone during Menopause Stages
Although the levels of progesterone in the body fluctuate daily, as menopause approaches, they begin a gradual decrease.
Premenopause (until approx. age 45). Progesterone levels will change according to the current menstrual cycle stage. On average, however, progesterone levels during premenopause are between 8 and 10 ng/ml (nanograms per milliliter). This changes during ovulation and pregnancy, when progesterone levels double.
Perimenopause (between ages 45 and 55). Perimenopause is also a time of frequent and erratic changes in progesterone levels. Progesterone levels begin to fall to levels between 4 and 8 ng/ml.
Menopause (approx. age 51). Progesterone levels in menopausal women can range from a low of 0.1 - 8 ng/ml to a high of 10 - 16 ng/ml. This shift in progesterone levels can make menopause a very uncomfortable time for many women.
Postmenopause (approx. over age 60). Postmenopausal women have extremely low levels of progesterone because they are no longer menstruating. On average, the level of progesterone in postmenopausal women is 1 ng/ml.
Progesterone and Menopause Symptoms
Each menopausal stage entails various signs and symptoms of progesterone imbalance. For example:
Premenopause (until approx. age 45). During premenopause, progesterone levels change depending on the stage of the menstrual cycle and pregnancy. Some of the possible effects are:
- During menstruation, women may experience increased libido due to elevated progesterone levels.
- When estrogen and progesterone levels are unstable, mood swings or depression may result.
- A progesterone deficiency (which leads to an estrogen dominance) can result in hair loss, memory loss, weight gain, and water retention.
Perimenopause (between ages 45 and 50). Perimenopause is a time when progesterone levels fluctuate frequently. Women may not realize that perimenopause has begun or understand why they are experiencing different symptoms. Below are some of the most common signs and symptoms of progesterone imbalance.
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Night sweats
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal dryness
- Loss of libido.
- Breast tenderness
- Mood swings
Menopause (between ages 50 and 60). Symptoms begin to intensify with the onset of menopause. Those related to an imbalance of progesterone are:
- Uterine or gallbladder cancer
- Depression, irritability, and anxiety
Postmenopause (over age 60). Postmenopause is the stage when menstruation has stopped completely. Progesterone levels are very low during this period because the body is no longer preparing for pregnancy. Many women experience weight gain, night sweats, and hot flashes during postmenopause.
Menopause symptoms related to progesterone fluctuations can be very upsetting, especially if left untreated. Consequently, many women search for different ways to reduce the impact of progesterone imbalance. To read more a about them, please click on treatments for progesterone imbalance.