What is progesterone? Progesterone, often referred to as the forgotten hormone because of its overshadowed status next to estrogen, has been steadily gaining attention and recognition as more research has been done on it in recent years. Here’s what you need to know about progesterone, why it’s important in your body, and how doctors can help with hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
In women, progesterone is responsible for supporting pregnancy once an egg has been fertilized. Without progesterone to maintain a pregnant state, menstruation would resume. It helps regulate other aspects of female reproductive health too, such as vaginal mucus production, ovulation and puberty.
In menopause-age women, declining levels of progesterone can cause vaginal dryness or thinning; in younger women with irregular menstrual cycles and ovulation issues due to stress or overwork, high levels may be responsible for infertility (1).
Although research continues on exactly how progesterone contributes to health outside of reproduction, many researchers are turning their attention to its benefits against certain types of cancer (2). Regardless of your sex, your body needs progesterone--too little can lead to complications like endometriosis or fibroids while too much can contribute to mood swings and depression.
One of progesterone's primary roles in your body is helping to prepare your uterus for the implantation of a fertilized egg. High levels of progesterone also lower estrogen, which makes your uterus less hospitable to an embryo. In women with irregular menstrual cycles or those who are not pregnant, levels can fluctuate wildly; some women will have high progesterone, others will have low progesterone, while still others may have no detectable amounts at all. If you are going through menopause (as many women do), you may notice your overall hormone levels dropping as well—and as a result, declining levels of progesterone.
The short answer is that taking a progesterone supplement in low doses can be beneficial. It will not necessarily raise your progesterone levels back to normal, but you may notice some of its other benefits like improved sleep, more even moods, and better skin quality. If you are looking for other signs of deficiency, they are lower sex drive, trouble conceiving a child, painful periods, or infertility issues. Speak with your doctor if you think that might be an issue or if you would like to see if there are other reasons for these symptoms outside of low progesterone levels. On that note...
Talk to your doctor about taking a progesterone supplement. This can be either in the form of an over-the-counter natural remedy or prescribed from your doctor if you have certain symptoms that point to low levels. For example, women with issues getting pregnant may have high levels of estrogen and therefore need to take more progesterone. Speak with your doctor if you're struggling to conceive and they may be able to help determine whether a progesterone deficiency is part of your problem or not.
Progesterone supplements typically come in creams and patches, which are easy to apply yourself, or capsules that you can take orally. Whatever form you choose, remember that these supplements will not elevate your progesterone levels back to what they were when you were younger. The only way to naturally increase progesterone after menopause (when there's a drop) is with hormone replacement therapy. You need a prescription for those, however.
Progesterone supplements typically come in creams and patches, which are easy to apply yourself, or capsules that you can take orally.
You can test your progesterone easily at Lab Me by clicking here.