Low Progesterone: Complications, Causes and More

Consult your gynecologist if you have low progesterone levels to get the most appropriate treatment for your particular case.

Last update: 28 November, 2019

Progesterone is a female sex hormone produced in the ovaries after ovulation. It plays a crucial role in the menstrual cycle and pregnancy.

It’s essential during your monthly cycle as its main function is to thicken the lining of the uterus to prepare it for a fertilized egg. The levels of this hormone drop and menstruation begins when there’s no fertilized egg.

Progesterone is essential for the development of breasts and for breastfeeding. In fact, it’s complementary to some of the effects of estrogen. In relation to testosterone, it’s responsible for being the precursory hormone to the adrenal hormones.

While it’s a female hormone, the male body also contains it in small quantities and uses it to develop sperm. As you can see, it’s a very important one.

If you’re a woman with low progesterone then you must know the complications that can arise from it.

What should worry me about low progesterone?

Pregnant woman at a doctor's office

This hormone is particularly important during your reproductive years. If you don’t have enough of it, 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, according to this study by Clínica Las Condes in Chile. The symptoms of low progesterone in non-pregnant women are:

  • headaches and migraines
  • mood changes, including anxiety and depression
  • low sexual desire
  • hot flushes
  • irregular menstrual cycle

During pregnancy, low progesterone can mean that the pregnancy doesn’t reach its full term because the uterus is not strong enough. At least this is what this study by Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Médicas y Nutrición Salvador Zubirán suggests.

The symptoms of progesterone deficiency during pregnancy are:

  • localized abdominal pain
  • constant sensitivity in the breasts
  • relentless fatigue
  • frequent low blood sugar
  • vaginal dryness

Low levels of this hormone can also be a sign of the presence of toxemia or ectopic pregnancy, which causes the death of the fetus or miscarriage. Sometimes it also endangers the life of the mother, according to this study by Pontificia Universidad Católica of Chile.

Likewise, the estrogen in your body can lead to health problems and make you experience a variety of symptoms when the level of progesterone decreases. These include:

What are the right levels of progesterone?

Couple in bed

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 your levels of progesterone.

In general, men, children, and postmenopausal women have low levels of progesterone in comparison with reproductive-age women.

Due to all of the above, the levels of progesterone considered “normal” will depend on your age, gender and special conditions such as pregnancy or menstruation.

What to do about low progesterone?

Having low progesterone may not lead to any symptoms for you, so you might not require any treatment.

However, if you’re trying to get pregnant, then hormonal therapy to increase progesterone can help thicken the lining of your uterus. This will improve your likelihood of achieving a healthy, full-term pregnancy. However, you must know that according to this study by Centro de Salud de Cartuja in Granada, the use of these techniques increases your risk of ovarian cancer.

Similarly, 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 treatments 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. Besides, it also reduces your risk of osteoporosis, according to this study by the hospital of Università di Pisa in Italy. The oral option can offer a calming effect as a result of which you’ll also find it easier to get to sleep.

Ask your doctor about the best treatment for you

Doctor discussing the best low progesterone treatments with his patient

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.

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