Progesterone: not only important during pregnancy

Progesterone: not only important during pregnancy

Like estrogen, progesterone is one of the female sex hormones. It plays a crucial role, especially for women who want to have children, as it prepares the body for pregnancy . During menopause, the hormone concentration in the body drops sharply. This can lead to typical symptoms such as irritability or sleep disorders. Today, these are increasingly alleviated by treatment with natural progesterone. Learn more about the effects and side effects of progesterone here. 

effect of progesterone

Progesterone is also known as the yellow body hormone or corpus luteum hormone. The corpus luteum and the placenta mainly produce it during pregnancy. Smaller amounts are also made in the adrenal glands. Production is controlled by the luteinizing hormone (LH). Together with estrogen, progesterone is responsible for regulating the female menstrual cycle. 

Progesterone is primarily associated with the female body, but men also have the hormone. In them, it is produced in the adrenal cortex and the testicles. It is essential for good sperm mobility and their ability to penetrate an egg cell. 


progesterone levels

In women, progesterone levels are subject to strong fluctuations. How high the value is depends, among other things, on whether you are pregnant. During the first half of the cycle, the concentration is up to 0.3 micrograms per litre (µg/l). During the second half of the cycle, it can increase to as much as 15.9 micrograms per litre. In men, a value of up to 0.2 micrograms per litre is considered normal. 

If you are pregnant, progesterone levels are significantly higher than usual. In the first twelve weeks of pregnancy, the concentration must be at least ten micrograms per litre to sustain the pregnancy.

  • 1st third: 2.8 to 147.3 micrograms per litre
  • 2nd third: 22.5 to 95.3 micrograms per litre
  • 3rd third: 27.9 to 242.5 micrograms per litre

In addition to pregnancy, progesterone levels can also be elevated in the presence of a tumour in the ovaries, a hydatidiform mole and adrenogenital syndrome. 

Too little progesterone

If the progesterone levels are too low, a so-called corpus luteum insufficiency is often the cause. The corpus luteum produces too little progesterone. In addition to corpus luteum insufficiency, underdevelopment of the ovaries, an ovulation disorder, and a cycle without ovulation are also possible causes. If too little progesterone is produced, menstrual disorders often occur. It can also happen that a desired pregnancy does not occur. 

A doctor can quickly determine whether a woman is producing too little progesterone. To do this, the doctor takes two or three blood samples after ovulation at three or four days intervals. If the values ​​in at least two of the blood samples are above eight micrograms per litre, normal function of the corpus luteum can be assumed. 


progesterone in pregnancy

When a woman ovulates, the corpus luteum produces more progesterone to promote growth and blood flow to the lining of the uterus. This ensures that the body is optimally prepared for the implantation of a fertilized egg and, thus, for the beginning of a pregnancy. If there is no pregnancy, the corpus luteum regresses.

During the first few weeks of pregnancy, the corpus luteum produces more progesterone. Over time, however, this task is increasingly taken over by the placenta. Progesterone prevents the ovaries from producing more eggs. During pregnancy, the hormone ensures that the mammary glands prepare for milk delivery.

If the progesterone level in women is generally shallow, this can make pregnancy difficult or even impossible. In addition, the risk of miscarriage increases during the first few weeks of pregnancy. If the values ​​are shallow, an additional progesterone administration is recommended. The hormone helps to support and maintain pregnancy.

progesterone during menopause

During menopause, the progesterone concentration in women slowly decreases until it is finally only about 0.2 micrograms per litre. This corresponds to the hormone concentration in men. Likewise, less estrogen is produced, but the waste only starts at a later point in time.

The reduced progesterone concentration can lead to typical menopause symptoms such as irritability and sleep disorders. These can be relieved with hormone replacement therapy . However, this is not undisputed. For this reason, natural progesterone is increasingly being used instead to treat the symptoms.

Natural Progesterone

Contrary to what the name might suggest, natural progesterone is a chemically manufactured product that is used to alleviate the symptoms of menopause. The starting materials are primarily extracts of the yam root. Natural progesterone is available in capsules and creams, among other things. In creams, the hormone concentration is significantly lower than in capsules. Since the gastrointestinal tract is bypassed, the dosage form is much better tolerated. 

Studies indicate that natural progesterone has some advantages over synthetic progestins used in hormone replacement therapy. Most importantly, even with long-term use, the risk of breast cancer should not increase. However, natural progesterone is broken down relatively quickly by the body. Therefore, the effect is sometimes not sufficient to effectively alleviate the symptoms.


side effects of progesterone

Which side effects can occur due to treatment with progesterone always depends on the dosage form. If progesterone is taken in the form of tablets, side effects such as tiredness or dizziness can occur. Rarely, abdominal pain and a feeling of fullness can also occur. 

When used vaginally, side effects such as tiredness, headaches, indigestion, spotting and a feeling of tension in the breasts can occur.

Excessive amounts of progesterone can also cause side effects. This can lead to weight gain and cycle irregularities. 

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