Progesterone is a hormone naturally synthesized by the human body. It is composed of many chemicals. In men, women and children it serves different purposes. Its most significant role though is in reproduction among women and young girls of childbearing age. Progesterone is instrumental for the following:
- Maintaining hormonal balance in the body
- Facilitates the reproduction process
Sometimes the body will not produce enough progesterone and, apart from affecting fertility or pregnancy, you might suffer other health problems. This article is going to discuss:
How progesterone works
Signs, complications, and tests for progesterone deficiency
Causes of progesterone deficiency
Remedies for progesterone deficiency
Prevention of progesterone deficiency
1. How progesterone works
Before ovulation, the body needs to prepare a place for a fertilized egg to grow. Progesterone prepares the uterus by triggering the thickening of the endometrium so that it is ready to receive a fertilized egg. It also prevents muscular contractions that would expel an egg in the uterus.
If fertilization does not place the lining breaks down and menstruation occurs. As a result progestogen levels in the body drop. This allows the menstrual cycle to continue.
In case the egg is fertilized, progesterone stimulates the formation of blood vessels that will supply the fetus. It also keeps the lining of the uterus.
During pregnancy, it suppresses ovulation and prepares the body for breastfeeding by stimulating the growth of milk-producing glands.
In maintaining hormonal balance
Progesterone at the right levels will keep the effects of estrogen in check. Estrogen dominance brings about some health problems, it can be a result of low progesterone levels.
For women who have undergone hysterectomy, as well as women past menopause, progesterone is also necessary albeit in smaller amounts.
2. Signs, complications and tests for progesterone deficiency
Progesterone deficiency causes physical as well as emotional and psychological symptoms in different degrees for different people. If your Progesterone levels are low you might experience any of the following;
If you are not expectant
- Mood changes and anxiety
- Lack of interest in sex
- Irregular menstrual cycle
- Hot flashes
- Uterine bleeding
- Premenstrual syndrome
If you are expectant
- Abdominal pain
- Low blood sugar
- Painful and lumpy breasts
- Recurrent miscarriage
- Unusual weight gain and inability to cut weight
- Sensitivity to touch
After delivering a child, you could suffer from baby blues, which can be a sign that your progestogen levels are low.
Other symptoms can accompany these depending on the health of an individual. These warning signs can indicate other health problems. Even if you notice all these symptoms, see a doctor who can perform a few tests to give a diagnosis.
Apart from the above health problems, prolonged deficiency of progesterone is also linked to an increased risk of heart disease and complications during pregnancy, as well as ectopic pregnancies.
Tests for progesterone deficiency
When you see your doctor, they might recommend two primary tests. However, some medications you are taking or conditions you suffer from can affect the accuracy of these tests. The test you might undergo are;
Some progesterone is usually found in your saliva. Your doctor can do the saliva tests over the month or one time. If the test is repeated throughout the month, the doctor is monitoring how the progesterone levels are changing in your body.
Progesterone levels in your blood can also tell the doctor whether you have a deficiency or not. For blood tests, you might be asked to avoid oral contraceptives for the 24 hours preceding the test.
For both types of tests, your results will be considered along with your age and time of the month, the ideal levels of progesterone differ from person to person.
3. Causes of progesterone deficiency
Progesterone deficiency can be caused by a single factor or a conglomeration of factors. The leading causes of progesterone deficiency are:
Stress is a leading cause of progesterone deficiency. Modern lifestyles are more stressful than in the last century. When you are stressed, your body releases a hormone known as cortisol. This hormone blocks the reception of progestogen in your body.
Stress will also aggravate the symptoms of progestogen deficiency
Don’t let the name faze you; xenohormones are common elements that mimic the effects of hormones in your body. They can be in plastics, chemicals, nail polish and even some animal products.
If you strain your body too much, usually by over exercising, your body might not be able to maintain desirable hormonal levels. However, exercising in moderation is good for your body. It won't result in low progesterone levels.
4. Remedies for progesterone deficiency
The advances made in medicine over the past century avail many ways of treating progesterone deficiency. The underlying principle is the same, introducing progesterone into the body to restore hormonal balance. The treatments include,
- Gels and creams
- Pills or tablets to be taken orally
- Vaginal rings
Side effects of progesterone therapy
The body is sensitive to hormonal changes, and when a doctor prescribes medication to raise your progesterone levels, there are some common side affects you might experience. These can include dizziness, muscle cramps, fever, chest pains as well as difficulty in passing urine. However, these side effects vary with the particular medication. The severity of these side effects is also unique for each person.
5. Preventive measures
All these options can work and your doctor will always recommend a medication that is the best for your body. Apart from drugs, you can be advised by your doctor to;
- Take measures to reduce stress; you might need to make some adjustments to your lifestyles.
- Take foods laden in vitamin B and C, which play a role in increasing progesterone levels in your body
- Eat meals that are rich in zinc.
Always rely on a doctor to diagnose and treat you for progesterone deficiencies. Furthermore, you should not take hormones without instructions from your doctor. You can go to the extreme of having excess progesterone which is not good for your health.