Progesterone is one of the most important female hormones, the formation of which is provided by the ovaries and the placenta. The regulation of the menstrual cycle and preparation of the female body for conception are the main functions of the substance. Therefore, progesterone should be within normal limits, especially when planning pregnancy. Below we will tell you about signs and symptoms of low progesterone, its causes, and treatment methods.
Signs & symptoms of low progesterone
A symptom is a phenomenon that is experienced by the person having a certain condition. A sign is an outwardly visible indication that can be observed by someone other than the person having the condition or disease. Thus, symptoms of low progesterone in non-pregnant women include:
- irregular menstrual cycle;
- low sex drive (libido).
Mainly, symptoms of decreased progesterone include various disorders of the menstrual cycle, like delayed menstruation, oligomenorrhea, and polymenorrhea, as well as amenorrhea. If a woman is planning a pregnancy, conception is not likely to occur. In those cases, when the pregnancy is achieved, the insufficiency of this hormone increases the probability of spontaneous abortion. Signs of low progesterone in females who aren’t pregnant include mood changes, anxiety and depression. However, the terms “sign” and “symptom” are often interchanged.
Signs and symptoms of low progesterone in women during pregnancy include:
- permanent breast tenderness;
- frequent decreased blood glucose;
- dryness in the vagina.
Causes of low progesterone in women
What causes low progesterone in females? The decrease in the concentration of progesterone in the blood of healthy women occurs against the background of such conditions as:
- a strict diet with insufficient nutrient content, especially fats;
- emotional reactions to stress, fatigue, etc.;
- genetic predisposition;
- deterioration of the menstrual cycle.
Pathological causes of a decrease in progesterone in the woman’s blood are as follows:
- disorders of the pituitary gland, causing a lack of luteinizing hormone;
- disorders of the thyroid gland;
- dysfunction of the ovaries;
- acute and chronic infectious diseases of ovarian tissues.
Progesterone’s role in conceiving a child
Progesterone is an important hormonal substance during pregnancy planning. Ideally, at the time of conception of a child, these hormone levels in a woman’s body should not fluctuate.
This hormone is essential for the women’s reproductive system for the following reasons:
- progesterone creates favorable conditions in the uterus for the fertilization of the egg;
- under its influence, the viability of the fetal egg rises substantially;
- progesterone regulates uterine contractions, which excludes the chance of spontaneous miscarriage;
- progesterone helps to strengthen the endometrium to maintain the embryo;
- progesterone controls the proliferation of small blood vessels in the endometrium of the uterus.
During ovulation under the influence of estrogens and other hormonal substances of the pituitary body, a yellow body or corpus luteum is formed. This is the gland that appears on the site of the burst follicle after ovulation. A growing follicle for maintaining its own growth synthesizes special substances that prepare the endometrium for attaching the egg and increase the sensitivity of the inner membranes of the uterus to progesterone.
After the end of ovulation, the yellow body begins to intensively manufacture progesterone. Under its influence, the decidual membrane of the endometrium, which is necessary for implantation of the embryo, grows and stores nutrients. What does a low level mean? The progesterone deficiency in planning pregnancy directly affects the movement of the fertilized egg through the Fallopian tube and its unimpeded attachment to the walls of the uterus. Low levels of the hormone can cause difficulties in conceiving a child and temporary infertility.
How to diagnose low progesterone?
The abovementioned signs and symptoms are reasons to visit a doctor in order to check your progesterone levels. Diagnosis of the condition is performed by measuring progesterone levels in the blood of the patient.
This measuring is a simple blood test that does not require preparation. Non-pregnant women usually submit to a blood test on the seventh day of the luteinizing phase, when the yellow body in the ovary is maximally developed. Submitting to blood test on the 21st day of the menstrual cycle is only meaningful for patients with a regular 28-day cycle. In all other cases, a doctor determines the optimal time for test on an individual basis. Contact your doctor and she or he will appoint an optimal day.
The progesterone test can also be used for monitoring HRT or the health condition in case of risk pregnancy.
How to treat low progesterone in women?
If a woman is diagnosed with progesterone insufficiency at the pregnancy planning stage, she is prescribed drugs containing this hormone. To treat progesterone insufficiency, Duphaston is often prescribed. The use of this synthesized analogue of the natural women’s progesterone in gynecological practice makes it possible to combat infertility, spontaneous abortions, the threat of abortion, menstrual cycle disorders (dysmenorrhea), endometriosis. Duphaston is used for treating women with pathological absence of menstruation, as well as for handling uterine bleeding. Only the attending physician can decide what treatment plan to follow and what dosage of Duphaston to take. Other medications for low progesterone treatment include:
- An oral medication called Provera.
- Creams & gels, which may be used topically or vaginally.
- Suppositories, which are typically used when treating low hormone levels causing infertility.
- Vaginal rings, which provide slower releases of active substances than oral medications.
Some females find that the drugs cause side effects that may include heart palpitations, sleepiness or nausea, so the proper dosage should be prescribed by a doctor.
In case of the absence of pregnancy (confirmed by the results of hCG blood test) the drug can be withheld on the 12th or 13th day, which contributes to the onset of menstrual bleeding. If pregnancy occurs, women should continue to take progesterone medication during early pregnancy, until the 16th week of gestation, that is until the moment when the placenta is fully formed so as to be able to produce the hormone.
During menopause, women can be prescribed combined hormonal drugs containing both estrogens and progesterone (the so called combined estrogen progesterone hormone replacement therapy; by the way, you can read about testosterone replacement therapy). Such therapy reduces the risk of uterine cancer, osteoporosis, eliminates unpleasant symptoms of menopause and improves skin condition.
How to increase progesterone levels naturally?
To increase progesterone, some experts recommend adding sweet pepper, beans, asparagus, spinach, greens, carrots and cabbage to the diet.
It is possible to prepare a vegetable salad and dress it heavily with olive, sunflower or soybean oils. The diet should contain protein-rich foods, including fish, meat, cottage cheese, as well as marine fish that is rich in healthy omega-3 fats, which are essential for the function of the whole body.
Desserts are recommended to be replaced with fresh berries and fruits, such as raspberry, currant, dog rose, raisins, persimmon and apples. The production of hormones improves after eating walnuts, almonds, peanuts or sunflower seeds. Fats contained in these products are the building materials for the synthesis of progesterone and other sex hormones.
There are some methods of folk medicine for increasing progesterone rates in females. To raise the level of progesterone, one can daily drink herb tea on the basis of fresh raspberry leaves, lady’s mantle, pasque flower, and some other herbs. It should be noted that the use of these methods should be discussed with your doctor. Even herbs may cause side effects, also they may interact with medicines. The same goes for remedies allowing to boost testosterone levels naturally.