Steroids are a group of hormones and synthetic drugs that include anabolic steroids, corticosteroids, estrogens, etc. Progesterone is an intermediate in the production of other endogenous steroids, which has other important functions in the body. What is progesterone and what are its key functions?
What is progesterone – definition of the hormone
Progesterone is the most important hormone of a steroid nature, which is produced in the body of both women and men. In the male sex, progesterone is synthesized in small amounts by the testicles and adrenal glands. In fact, progesterone does not belong to sex hormones: it is the matrix of all steroid and sex hormones. It is the function of the “progenitor” that determines its importance for the whole body.
For females, progesterone is one of the main hormones that regulate the reproductive system.
Doctors sometimes call progesterone a pregnancy hormone, because it is responsible for preparing the uterus for attaching a fertilized egg and further maintainance of the pregnancy.
Progesterone which is produced by the ovaries is called lutein progesterone, and the variant that is produced by the placenta during pregnancy is referred to as placental. Although both progesterone hormones are identical in structure, they perform different functions.
In men, progesterone is also produced in small amounts by the adrenal cortex and testicular tissue, it performs a number of important functions in the body. First of all, progesterone is the precursor of other hormones. It synthesizes testosterone, cortisol, neurosteroids and other important hormones, and takes part in the work of the central nervous system.
In addition, with age, male persons experience an increase in the concentration of estrogens in the blood. As you know, excess estrogen in the male body can contribute to the formation of a more feminine figure, the formation of fat, fluid accumulation and a decrease in sexual function (you might be interested in how to increase testosterone level naturally). Progesterone is a kind of counterweight to estrogen; when its level is normal, then estrogen levels don’t increase.
What does progesterone do – its main functions
What does progesterone do? The main role of progesterone is to regulate reproductive function. It prepares the endometrium for the implantation of a fertilized egg and reduces the activity of the immune system, which helps to prevent rejection of the embryo; under its influence the cervical mucus thickens, forming a kind of cork that protects the uterine cavity from foreign agents that can penetrate into it from the vagina. A sharp decrease in the level of progesterone in the blood contributes to the launching of the childbirth functions and is a signal for the onset of lactation in the postnatal period. Due to these functions, it is called the pregnancy hormone. Progesterone plays an important role in the process of secretion of some other hormones. For example, its imbalance leads to the disturbance of aldosterone activity, as well as worsens the susceptibility of the mammary gland tissue to the action of estrogens. Progesterone affects the skin condition. With age, its level gradually decreases in the female body. As a result, the synthesis of collagen and elastin is interrupted, skin tone worsens, and wrinkles appear. When female patients are prescribed progesterone-containing drugs, the condition of their skin improves noticeably. Progesterone affects the production of neuroactive steroid called allopregnanolone, which is important for the central nervous system. Researchers believe that this neurosteroid, combined with progesterone, has a significant effect on the sexual arousal of a woman.
What is the function of the hormone progesterone in males? Here are some positive effects that progesterone can have in the male body, if it does not exceed the normal concentration:
- Strengthening the bones.
- Reducing the level of conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone.
- Preventing prostate cancer (progesterone-based meds were sometimes used in case of this disease).
- Preventing the increase in estrogen levels.
- Regulating the level of glucose in the blood.
- Regulating fluid metabolism in the body.
- Protecting against cardiovascular diseases.
- Maintaining the function of the brain (by protecting the myelin sheath).
- Normalizing the function of the thyroid gland.
- Improving the skin condition.
If progesterone in men is elevated, a significant suppression of libido may be observed (you might be interested in do steroids make your penis smaller).
When our body synthesizes less progesterone than necessary, artificial substitutes (progesterone medications) are used for treatment. These drugs can be produced in various forms: cream with progesterone, gel, suppositories with progesterone, tablets or ampoules for intramuscular and subcutaneous infections. As for the types of the drug, you can find the following products on the pharmaceutical market:
- Ordinary progesterone. The drug is most often produced in ampoules (an oily transparent solution), it contains from 10 to 25% of the active substance. It is administered intramuscularly or subcutaneously. Before use, the solution in the ampoule is placed in warm water for several minutes in order to bring the temperature of the medication closer to body temperature, and the composition of the solution becomes more liquid. The med is prescribed to pregnant women for the prevention of an undesirable interruption of pregnancy or prevention of miscarriage in 5 ml per day dosage. In the treatment of amenorrhea and abnormal ovarian function, the drug is prescribed in a dose of approximately 1 ml per day.
- Crinone Gel (vaginal). Indications for use are low levels of progesterone. The drug intended for vaginal use is considered one of the most highly effective drugs; it contains about 80% progesterone. On some websites, you can read that it is so effective that a one-time administration of it can raise and stabilize the level of progesterone for up to two or three days. In practice, however, the gel is prescribed for using once a day, on the 20th day of the menstrual cycle, or in the 1st month of pregnancy. Crinone is also used to maintain pregnancy in females having in-vitro fertilization (also known as IVF).
- Duphaston. Meds of the dydrogesterone group (brand name Duphaston) are artificial analogues of natural progesterone. The drug is safe enough, so it has indications for use during pregnancy for the treatment of an undesirable pregnancy termination. In case of infertility Duphaston is used in the same dosage twice a day for one month; after that the dosage can be increased by 1.5 times.
- Utrogestan. The drug is available in capsules of 50-250 mg for oral administration or as a suppository for vaginal use. Indications for use include treatment during the first weeks of pregnancy at risk of unwanted abortion or prevention of miscarriage.
Important: never use the above medications without consulting a doctor. Only the doctor can prescribe the necessary dosage and duration of the drug administration.