Progesterone: Not only important in pregnancy

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

Effect of progesterone

Progesterone is also referred to as corpus luteum hormone or corpus luteum hormone. It is mainly produced by the yellow body, during pregnancy but also by the placenta. Smaller amounts are also produced in the adrenal glands. Production is controlled by the Luteinizing Hormone (LH). Together with estrogen, progesterone is responsible for the regulation of the female cycle.

Progesterone is primarily associated with the female body, but even men have the hormone. With them it is produced in the adrenal cortex and in the testicles. Among other things, it is important for sperm motility and for their ability to penetrate an egg.

Progesterone values

In women, progesterone levels vary widely. How high the value is depends, among other things, on whether a pregnancy is present or not. During the first half of the cycle, the concentration is up to 0.3 micrograms per liter (μg / l). During the second half of the cycle, it can rise up to 15.9 micrograms per liter. For men, a value of up to 0.2 micrograms per liter is considered normal.

If pregnant, progesterone levels are significantly higher than usual. For the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, the concentration must be at least 10 micrograms per liter to maintain pregnancy.

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

In addition to pregnancy, the progesterone levels may also be increased in a tumor in the ovaries, in a molar mole as well as the adrenogenital syndrome.

Too little progesterone

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

Whether a woman produces too little progesterone can easily be determined by a doctor. For this, the doctor performs two or three blood samples at intervals of three or four days after ovulation. If more than 8 micrograms per liter are present in at least two of the blood samples, normal function of the luteal body is assumed.

Progesterone in pregnancy

When ovulation occurs in a woman, the corpus luteum then produces more progesterone to promote growth and blood flow to the uterine lining. 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 yellow body forms back.

In the first weeks of pregnancy, the corpus luteum continues to produce more progesterone. Over time, however, this task is more and more taken over by the placenta. Progesterone prevents further ovules from being produced in the ovaries. Likewise, the hormone during pregnancy ensures that the mammary glands prepare for the delivery of milk.

If the progesterone level in women is generally very low, it may make pregnancy difficult or even impossible. In addition, the risk of miscarriage increases within the first few weeks of pregnancy. For very low values, therefore, an additional dose of progesterone is recommended. The hormone helps to support and maintain the pregnancy.

Progesterone during menopause

During menopause, the level of progesterone in women slowly decreases, until it is only about 0.2 micrograms per liter. This roughly corresponds to the hormone concentration in men. Similarly, less estrogen is produced, but the waste starts at a later date.

The reduced progesterone concentration can cause typical menopause symptoms such as irritability and sleep disturbances. These can be alleviated by hormone replacement therapy. However, this is not undisputed. Because of this, natural progesterone is being used more and more often to treat the condition.

Natural progesterone

Natural progesterone, unlike the name suggests, is a chemically manufactured product used to relieve menopausal symptoms. Starting material are usually extracts of yams root. Natural progesterone is available in the form of capsules and creams. In creams, the concentration of the hormone is much lower than in capsules. Since the gastrointestinal tract is bypassed, the dosage form is also much better tolerated.

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

Side effects of progesterone

The side effects of progesterone treatment are always dependent on the dosage form. Taking progesterone in the form of tablets can cause side effects such as tiredness or dizziness. Rarely, it can also lead to abdominal pain and feeling of fullness.

Side effects such as tiredness, headache, indigestion, spotting, and a feeling of tightness in the breasts can occur with a vaginal application.

If progesterone is used too much it can also cause side effects. This can lead to weight gain and to irregularities in the cycle.

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