Progesterone is a female sex hormone that is produced in the ovaries following ovulation. It plays a crucial role in the menstrual cycle and the development of pregnancy.
Although it’s essential in your monthly cycle, its main function is to thicken the lining of the uterus to prepare it for a fertilized egg. If there is no fertilized egg, the levels of this hormone drop and menstruation begins.
Progesterone is essential for the development of the breasts and for breastfeeding. It is complementary to some of the effects of estrogen. In relation to testosterone, it is responsible for being the precursory hormone to the adrenal hormones.
While it is a female hormone, the male body also uses it in small quantities to develop sperm. As you can see, it’s an important hormone.
If you’re a woman who has low progesterone, it is best to know the complications that this can lead to.
What should worry me about low progesterone?
Progesterone is especially important in your reproductive years. If you don’t have enough progesterone, you might not be able to get pregnant or to sustain a pregnancy.
When the lining of your uterus is not thick enough, it cannot sustain a fertilized egg. The symptoms of low progesterone in women that are not pregnant include:
- Headaches or migraines.
- Mood changes, including anxiety or depression.
- Low sexual desire.
- Hot flushes.
- Irregularity in the menstrual cycle.
During pregnancy, low progesterone can mean that the pregnancy doesn’t reach its full term because the uterus is not strong enough.
The symptoms of deficiency of this hormone during pregnancy are:
- Localized abdominal pain.
- Constant sensitivity in the breasts.
- Relentless fatigue.
- Frequent low blood sugar.
- Vaginal dryness.
Read also: Irregular Menstruation: Why Does It Happen?
Low levels of progesterone can be a sign of the presence of toxemia or an ectopic pregnancy, which causes the death of the fetus or miscarriage.
On the other hand, when the level of progesterone goes down, the estrogen in the body can cause health problems and make you suffer from a range of symptoms. These include:
- Weight gain
- Reduction in sexual desire
- Irregular cycles and abundant bleeding
- Fibroids, endometriosis
- Gallbladder problems
- Thyroid dysfunction.
What are the right levels of progesterone?
A progesterone examination can help your gynecologist to find out whether your progesterone levels are low. All that is needed is a blood test that doesn’t require any special preparations.
This test can offer you clues about what is happening in your body and perhaps the reason that you can’t get pregnant. It also tends to be used to monitor hormone replacement therapies and to assess the health of your pregnancy if it is high risk.
Progesterone levels vary over the course of the menstrual cycle, reaching their peak one week before menstruation, and they can also vary over the course of a day.
Progesterone normally increases during pregnancy. The more babies you are carrying (like twins), the higher the levels of progesterone.
In general, men, children and post-menopausal women have low levels of progesterone in comparison with reproductive age women.
Due to all the above, the levels of progesterone that are considered “normal” will depend on your age, gender and special conditions like pregnancy or menstruation.
Can I do anything about low progesterone?
Having low progesterone may not cause any symptoms for you, so you might not require any treatment.
However, if you want to have a baby, hormonal therapy to increase progesterone can help thicken the lining of the uterus. This will improve your likelihood of achieving a healthy, full-term pregnancy.
On the other hand, menstrual irregularities can also be resolved with hormonal therapies. For severe menopause symptoms, hormonal therapy is a combination of estrogen and progesterone.
The most common treatment options are:
- Creams and gels that can be used topically or vaginally.
- Suppositories, which are used as treatments for fertility problems.
- Vaginal rings, as a slower treatment than oral medication.
- Oral medication.
Hormonal therapies can help you lead a healthy life without complications. These therapies eliminate symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness.
Some women even notice improvements in their mood. They also reduce the risk of suffering from osteoporosis and diabetes. The oral option can offer a calming effect as a result of which you’ll also find it easier to get to sleep.
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Ask your doctor about the best low progesterone treatment for you
Remember that any treatment should be carried out under the supervision of your doctor. In very extreme cases, hormonal treatment can increase the risk of strokes, blood clots and gallbladder problems.
If you have breast cancer or endometrial cancer, it is likely that hormonal therapy isn’t the best option for you. The only person who can help you discover the best approach for your health is your doctor.