The Role of Progesterone in Women
Progesterone is one of the hormones produced and released by the ovaries and the adrenal glands. Progesterone stimulates and regulates various body functions, such as ovulation, and plays a major role in maintaining pregnancy.1 It is also used in combination with estrogen as part of hormone replacement therapy, to help control the amount of estrogen going into the body. Research has shown that if estrogen is given without progesterone, there is an increased risk of uterine and breast cancer.2
How does progesterone work?
- It helps to prepare your body for conception and pregnancy.
- It regulates the monthly menstrual cycle and plays a part in sexual desire.
- During pregnancy, progesterone promotes the growth of milk-producing glands in the breasts and assists with breastfeeding.
- It is also needed for the proper development of breasts through puberty.
- Progesterone is necessary for the successful implanting of the fertilized egg in the uterus.
- After ovulation, each month progesterone helps to thicken the lining of the uterus in preparation for a fertilized egg.
- If the lining of the uterus is not sufficiently thickened for the egg to be implanted, the levels of estrogen and progesterone drop and a normal period occurs.
- Progesterone is a critical part of the menstrual cycle, promoting regular ovulation and increasing the chances of falling pregnant.
- If pregnancy occurs, progesterone is also produced in the placenta, and the higher levels remain elevated throughout pregnancy.
- The combination of high estrogen and progesterone levels prevent further ovulation while you are pregnant.
Your progesterone levels can be determined through a simple blood test at a medical facility. Your doctor will know what the optimum level should be.
What if I have low progesterone?
Progesterone is important throughout your life, but it is especially important during your childbearing years. If you do not have enough progesterone, you may struggle to fall pregnant, and have a problem staying pregnant.3
For women who are not pregnant, low progesterone may cause abnormal bleeding.4 However, note that irregular periods may also indicate poorly functioning ovaries, as well as low progesterone. Here are some symptoms of low progesterone in nonpregnant women:
- Low sex drive.
- Anxiety or depression.
- Headaches or migraines.
- Hot flashes.
- Irregular menstrual cycle.
If you have any of those symptoms, visit your doctor for a hormone test.
Symptoms of low progesterone in pregnant women
If you are pregnant, you will need the correct level of progesterone to strengthen the uterus to ensure that it strong enough to carry the baby to full term.
During pregnancy, symptoms of low progesterone may include:
- Spotting and abdominal pain.
- Constant breast tenderness.
- Ongoing tiredness and fatigue.
- Low blood sugar which drains your energy.
- Vaginal dryness.
Research has also shown that low progesterone may indicate possible toxemia, or an ectopic pregnancy, which could have serious repercussions.4 It is important to keep in touch with your doctor if you have any symptoms which concern you.
The health benefits of progesterone
In addition to the well-known role progesterone plays in the menstrual cycle, ovulation and pregnancy, there are several other health benefits, which are lesser known. Here are just a few of them:5
- Improves premenstrual symptoms (PMS)
- Promotes bone building and helps to prevent osteoporosis.
- By regulating estrogen, helps to protect against breast and uterine cancer.
- Promotes healthy survival of the embryo and fetus throughout gestation period.
- Promotes the burning of fat which is used for energy.
- Acts as a natural anti-depressant and eases anxiety.
- Helps to keep blood sugar levels normal.
- New research is coming to light which shows that the benefits of progesterone extend to breast health, cardiovascular health, and also the nervous system.
- Progesterone plays a role in protecting the brain from damage and promotes repair after injury by fixing any damage to the myelin sheath that protects the nerve fibers.
These benefits are not restricted to either post-menopausal women or women still of child-bearing age. In fact, the health benefits are available to all women of any age. A visit to your doctor for a simple hormone blood test will tell if your hormones are in sync.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a well-accepted way to restore the levels of specific female hormones, including progesterone. There are two types of progesterone available – one natural, and one synthetic which is known as progestin.
Natural progesterone is made from chemicals extracted from yam and soy and is the same molecular structure of human progesterone made in the body.6 Chemically manufactured progestin, which has various trade names, can mimic the actions of progesterone, but cannot duplicate the natural progesterone made in the body. Studies have shown that the standard practice in American medicine has been to replace the natural hormone progesterone, with progestins such as Provera.7
The difference between natural progesterone and synthetic progestin
- Natural progesterone is identical to that of the human progesterone.
- Synthetic progestin may lack many of natural progesterone’s important benefits.
- Synthetic progesterone may cause side effects such as bloating, diarrhea, chest pain, indigestion, fluid retention, abdominal pain, and even a raised risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Natural progesterone is less likely to have side effects, and if properly administered, any side effects will be minimal.
Hormone therapy would appear to be the best treatment for progesterone problems, but it could be something of a long-term solution for some, especially post-menopausal women. The answer would be to work with your health practitioner to reassess your treatment annually.
The best way forward
Most of the conventional hormone replacement supplements are chemically manufactured and bear no resemblance to the molecules of hormones produced naturally in the body. Research has shown that synthetic hormones may have potentially unpleasant or dangerous side effects.8
Bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) uses hormones manufactured from plant extracts and are an exact replica of the hormones produced in the body. Studies have shown that there are less likely to be any harmful side effects, and if the correct hormone balance is achieved, no side effects worth noting.
Visit us at www.renewmetoday.com for more information about BHRT and to find out the location of your nearest Renew office.