Low progesterone is a concern that many women have either while trying to get pregnant or early in pregnancy. This isn’t a common problem.
However, women who do have low progesterone levels may have difficulty with getting or staying pregnant.
So, what exactly is progesterone and what is it needed for? And how do you know if you have low progesterone? Read on for more information about this important pregnancy hormone.
Progesterone is a special type of steroid hormone that is important in the female menstrual cycle and in pregnancy.
Progesterone is primarily made by the empty egg follicle (also known as the corpus luteum) after ovulation.
It is also made by the placenta and the adrenal glands. Believe it or not, progesterone is also produced in very small amounts by the testicles in a man’s body.
When it comes to getting and staying pregnant, progesterone is very important.
Progesterone levels are normally pretty low. However, after ovulation, the empty egg follicle begins to secrete it in large amounts.
High progesterone levels prepare the uterine lining for implantation. There are a couple important ways that this happens:
If pregnancy happens, the placenta will eventually take over making progesterone.
If pregnancy doesn’t happen, the corpus luteum (empty egg follicle after ovulation) will break down. This causes the progesterone levels to also decrease and triggers the start of a period.
Ever get PMS? You know that bloaty, tired, sore breasts feeling? You can thank a decreasing progesterone level for that. Mood swings? Yup, that’s thanks to changing progesterone levels as well.
Progesterone also helps to stimulate the development of breast tissue. This prepares the breasts for milk production and breastfeeding.
Early pregnancy symptoms, such as breast tenderness, feeling tired, bloated and moody? Those are also due to progesterone, just like with PMS right before your period.
Progesterone is most important during child-bearing years. This is especially true if you may be trying to get pregnant, or think you want to get pregnant soon.
In women who aren’t pregnant, low progesterone can cause abnormal uterine bleeding or irregular periods.
Having a low progesterone level can also cause estrogen levels to increase. Estrogen is another female sex hormone that plays a role in menstruation and pregnancy. High estrogen levels can cause symptoms such as:
Low progesterone levels during pregnancy can also indicate an ectopic pregnancy.
An ectopic pregnancy means that the fertilized egg has implanted outside of the uterus. A woman with an ectopic pregnancy should see her healthcare provider immediately. Without proper medical care, an ectopic pregnancy can be life-threatening.
There are several conditions that can cause a low progesterone level.
Symptoms of low progesterone may be subtle. If you aren’t pregnant, these symptoms could include:
if you suspect that you might have low progesterone, or you have been trying to get pregnant, you may want to test your progesterone levels.
The first way is to go to your doctor and get a prescription to have your blood drawn and tested. However, this route can be inconvenient. You may need to have your blood drawn a few times to capture your peak post-ovulation progesterone level.
A fertility monitor, like Inito, is another option. This home testing system can check your progesterone levels, along with estrogen and luteinizing hormone (LH). Checking the combination of all three hormones gives you a clearer picture about what happens when you ovulate.
It provides you with several different possible results:
1. High fertility – This result means that your estrogen level is rising and you are approaching ovulation. Now is a great time to try to conceive.
2. Peak fertility – A peak fertility result indicates that both estrogen and LH levels are rising. This means that you are going to ovulate within the next 24 to 36 hours. This is the best time to try to conceive.
3. Ovulation confirmed – This result indicates that your progesterone level has risen. It confirms that ovulation has occurred.
It’s important to mention that Inito is far more convenient than visiting your doctor for blood work. You can test your urine in the privacy of your own home and have results within minutes. It’s also more accurate than other fertility monitors that only test for one or two reproductive hormones.
It depends. Are you trying to conceive and having difficulty? Are you pregnant? Are you bothered by symptoms of low progesterone?
If the answer to any of these questions is “yes” and your Inito monitor confirms that you do have low progesterone, you should see your doctor.
It can be helpful to keep a log of your testing results that you can bring to the appointment.
Also document your menstrual cycle dates and any symptoms that you may have. Important symptoms to include are migraines, mood swings, irregular bleeding, hot flashes, and anything else that you think may be related.
Make sure to bring a list of questions to your appointment, and some paper to take notes.
Some good questions to ask may include:
Your doctor may order additional testing, such as blood testing of progesterone or other hormone levels. The doctor may also order an ultrasound of the reproductive organs.
If you and the doctor decide that treating low progesterone is necessary, there are several options, which include:
Whichever option you decide on, make sure to take the medication exactly as instructed. Notify your doctor if you experience any unexpected side effects.
You can also speak to the doctor about natural options for raising your progesterone levels:
Natural options may not be right for some women to take instead of traditional progesterone supplements. However, it may be possible to use them in addition to prescribed supplements.
Having low progesterone when pregnant or trying to conceive can have serious complications. Please check in with your doctor about your specific situation.
Causes and symptoms of progesterone deficiency. Retrieved from https://oklahomapaindoc.com/articles/causes-and-symptoms-of-progesterone-deficiency
Luteal phase defect. Retrieved from https://resolve.org/infertility-101/medical-conditions/luteal-phase-defect/
Both obese and anorexic women have low levels of ‘feel good’ neurosteroids. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171110164029.htm
Low progesterone: Symptoms, causes, and treatments. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/low-progesterone-symptoms
Understanding hormones: The roles of estrogen and progesterone. Retrieved from https://macarthurmc.com/understanding-hormones-the-roles-of-estrogen-and-progesterone/