There are certain things no woman should be without. That includes her own money, good friends, a skincare regimen – and progesterone. With luck, she has acquired the first three items throughout life, but progesterone, the hormone that helps maintain pregnancy and a lot more, virtually disappears at menopause. The good news is that progesterone therapy can continue offering hormonal benefits after the body’s natural levels plummet. At 25 Again we test your levels of progesterone and offer you what we clinically recommend to get you back to optimal hormonal levels.
Progesterone is for women only. Men should not use progesterone.
What is Progesterone?
Also known as the corpus luteum hormone, progesterone is responsible for pregnancy. The hormone’s name refers to pro-gestational. When the hormone originates in the ovaries, it is known as natural progesterone.
After ovulation, progesterone prepares the endometrium for the possibility of pregnancy by causing a thickening of the lining. This allows the uterus to accept a fertilized egg. By stopping uterine muscle contractions, progesterone inhibits egg rejection. A woman’s body does not ovulate when she produces large amounts of progesterone. Besides the uterus, there are progesterone receptor sites in the breast, vagina, brain, central nervous system, pituitary gland, and blood vessels.
If there is no pregnancy, progesterone levels in the body decline, triggering menstruation. Women with low progesterone levels may experience conception difficulties or irregular menstrual cycles.
The ovaries produce progesterone until menopause. After menopause, the adrenal glands continue producing small amounts of progesterone. Wild yam, a primary ingredient in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, is a natural source of progesterone.
Who Needs Progesterone
Whether a woman is pregnant, premenopausal, perimenopausal, or menopausal, she needs progesterone. Because progesterone helps induce sleep, it is often easy for women to recognize when their progesterone levels are low.
Without progesterone, a pregnancy cannot occur. The premenopausal woman may need progesterone therapy if menstrual periods bring on headaches and bloating.
Progesterone is the only treatment available for perimenopause. The transition period between the reproductive years and loss of fertility can last for years. Perimenopausal women may experience a greater number and more intense hot flashes than those in menopause, per se. Perimenopause shares other symptoms with menopause, including vaginal dryness and sleep issues. Symptoms unique to perimenopause include irregular periods and a change in the amount of flow, either heavier or lighter.
Perimenopause ends and official menopause begins when a woman has not had a period in 12 consecutive months. Women in menopause should find relief from many of their symptoms after progesterone therapy.
Progesterone is commonly used to treat amenorrhea, the unexpected stopping of the menses. It is also used to treat severe premenstrual syndrome or PMS. Women suffering from abnormal uterine bleeding resulting from hormonal imbalances are often prescribed progesterone.
Women dealing with infertility may receive progesterone via an intravaginal gel to increase the possibility of conception. Progesterone is used for the prevention of recurrent spontaneous preterm delivery, or premature birth.
Almost any woman can benefit from progesterone, including those who have had hysterectomies. Women who were not yet menopausal go through immediate menopause after this surgery.
In the past, doctors did not believe progesterone was necessary for women who no longer had a uterus. However, lack of a uterus does not mean a lack of menopausal symptoms. These women may experience all the effects of menopause, including hot flashes and insomnia. Progesterone is especially effective in reducing these symptoms.
Progesterone and Estrogen
The other primary female sex hormone, estrogen, is responsible for sexual development and reproductive system maintenance. Estrogen levels also drop dramatically after menopause. Small amounts are still produced by the adrenal glands and fat cells after the “change of life.”
Too much estrogen in women can result in bloating, headache, bleeding, fluid retention, and the growth of fibroids in the uterus. Progesterone moderates many of these side effects. Estrogen has a beneficial effect on bones and cholesterol levels, which progesterone boosts synergistically.
Women using oral contraceptives, or birth control pills, are taking a combination of estrogen and progesterone.
Natural Micronized Progesterone
After menopause, the adrenal glands continue producing small amounts of progesterone. Wild yam, a primary ingredient in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, is a natural source of progesterone.
Micronization of progesterone allows the increase of the drug’s available surface while improving its gastrointestinal absorption.
Natural progesterone helps protect the body from various diseases, including:
- Breast cancer
- Uterine cancer
- Coronary artery disease
- Ovarian cysts
Beware of synthetic progesterone compounds. These synthetic progestins do not exactly replicate the natural hormone’s biologic activities. For instance, synthetic progestins may adversely affect cardiovascular health rather than offer protection, as is the case with natural hormones. Progestins raise the risk of breast cancer. They may also cause harm to the fetus when taken during pregnancy.
Micronized progesterone is biologically identical on the molecular level to the hormones produced by the ovaries.
Progesterone is available in various formulations, so women and their healthcare providers can decide which type best suits their needs. These formulations include:
- Rapid-dissolve tablets
- Sublingual tablets
In the U.S., oral micronized natural progesterone is marketed under the brand name Prometrium. Inactive ingredients in Prometrium include peanut oil.
In clinical pharmacokinetic studies of oral micronized progesterone, results show that “physiologically relevant” progesterone levels are obtainable following oral ingestion of a minimum of 100 mg of micronized progesterone. These elevated progesterone levels are available for roughly 12 hours. Baseline levels do not return for 24 hours.
Progesterone Side Effects and Contraindications
Some women may experience breast or nipple sensitivity when taking oral progesterone. Usually, switching to the sublingual version will alleviate these symptoms.
Less common side effects may include:
- Mood swings
- Vaginal discharge
- Vaginal bleeding
- Fainting or dizziness
- Urinary issues
Connect with our experts here at 25 Again to look into progesterone and what we can do for you.
Because it is bioidentical, there are fewer adverse effects associated with micronized progesterone. Overall, it has the advantage not only in convenience and cost but on the woman’s quality of life.