Steroids are a group of hormones and synthetic drugs that include anabolic steroids, corticosteroids, estrogens, etc. Progesterone serves as an intermediate agent in the production of other endogenous steroids, performing vital functions in the organism. So what is progesterone and what are its key functions?
What is Progesterone — Definition of the Hormone
Progesterone (C21H30O2) is a hormone, produced in male and female bodies, with a crucial role. Testes and adrenal glands are responsible for its synthesis in men. It is fundamental for steroid hormones. Its function as a “progenitor” determines its importance.
Its hormonal activity was first described in 1929. Adolf Butenandt at Gdansk Technical University extracted and refined this substance from thousand of liters of urine.
For females, it’s a hormone, involved in the regulation of menstruation and other reproductive processes. The secretion occurs in the corpus luteum, a hormone-producing structure that is temporarily produced after ovulation. Its variant, synthesized by the placenta, is called placental progesterone.
Although both progesterone hormones are identical in structure, they perform different functions.
Lutein one prepares the uterus for catching a fertilized egg and the endometrium for pregnancy maintenance. It stimulates a supply to the endometrium’s blood vessels containing essential constituents which will feed the growing foetus. Placental one supports corpus luteum and contributes to the breasts’ milk production.
In men, a small amount of progesterone is secreted by the testicular tissue and adrenal cortex. It initiates different manifold effects. It influences spermiogenesis, capacitation of sperm, acrosome reaction, biosynthesis of the main male sex hormone (testosterone) in Leydig cells. It also affects CNS, blocks the secretion of gonadotropin, improves sleep, has an impact on CNS’s tumors (meningioma and fibroma), immune, cardiovascular, respiratory systems, adipose tissue and behavior. The revealing of an isoform of the progesterone receptor has an important value in the diagnosis of the prostate pathology. Progesterone effects’ modulation in males is associated with significant pharmacodynamic variability. In addition, according to Oettel M, Mukhopadhyay AK (2004), detection of progesterone receptor isoform can have a great diagnostic role in prostate diseases.
With age, the intensity of the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone gets higher, which induces benign prostatic hyperplasia and even cancer in some men. Progesterone minimizes the probability of their occurrence, naturally suppressing harmful processes.
During advancing years, men, as they get older, encounter elevated estrogen concentration, which induces such undesirable changes, as a feminine figure, the appearance of excess fat, fluid retention and a reduction in sexual desire (you might be interested in how to increase testosterone level naturally). Progesterone is a counterweight to the main female sex hormone; the estrogen amount depends on the opposing level of progesterone.
What Does Progesterone Do — Its Main Functions
What does progesterone do? As we have already mentioned, progesterone is involved in regulating reproductive mechanisms. Under its influence, the embryo’s rejection is prevented; it affects cervical mucus, which thickens and forms a “cork”, protecting the uterine cavity from heterogenous agents that can penetrate it from the vagina. The hormone’s rapid decrease launches the childbirth functions, promoting lactation in the postnatal phase. The hormone can also relieve climacteric symptoms as stated by Nikolaos Samaras, Maria-Aikaterini Papadopoulou, Dimitrios Samaras et al. from Geneva (2014).
Progesterone facilitates other hormones’ secretion. Its imbalance disturbs aldosterone activity and makes the susceptibility of the mammary gland tissue to the estrogens weaker. Skin condition also depends on it. The hormone provides a collagen and elastin synthesis. Consequently, when it declines, wrinkles appear. Female patients note the considerable improvement of their skin and complexion after taking progesterone-containing meds. Progesterone influences the emission of neuroactive steroid called allopregnanolone (also brexanolone under USAN). Researchers believe that the combination of this neurosteroid with progesterone raises a woman’s sex drive.
What is the function of progesterone in males? Here are some benefits it can have if it doesn’t exceed the normal concentration:
- Strengthening the bones.
- Reducing the level of conversion of test into DHT.
- Averting prostate cancer (progesterone-based meds are used on occasion in the case of this disease).
- Preventing the boosting of the estrogen quantity.
- Stabilizing the level of glucose in the blood.
- Normalizing fluid metabolism.
- Protecting against cardiovascular diseases.
- Maintaining the proper brain functioning (by protecting the myelin sheath).
- Normalizing the function of the thyroid gland.
- Improving the skin.
Childs E, Van Dam NT, de Wit H (2010) revealed that acute progesterone administration dampens several psychological effects of stress in men but provides inconsistent effects on the physiological stress response.
If progesterone levels in men are elevated, significant suppression of libido may be observed (you might be interested in do steroids make your penis smaller).
Progesterone-Based Medications: Descriptions & Brand Names
When our body synthesizes less progesterone than necessary, artificial substitutes (progesterone medications) are used for treatment. These meds are in various forms: cream with progesterone, gel, suppositories with progesterone, tablets or ampoules for intramuscular and subcutaneous injections. Check out the types of medicament available on the pharmaceutical market:
Ordinary progesterone. It’s most often produced in ampoules (an oily transparent solution), it contains from 10% to 25% of the active constituent. It is administered intramuscularly or subdermally. Before use, the solution in the ampoule is slightly warmed to bring its temperature closer to body warmth, and make it more liquefied. The med is prescribed to pregnant women at risk of miscarriage, in doses of 5 ml per day. In the treatment of amenorrhea and abnormal ovarian function, the dosage is approximately 1 ml per day.
Crinone Gel (vaginal). This intravaginal product is used to treat low progesterone and is highly effective; it contains about 80% progesterone. On some websites, you can read that it’s so effective that its one-time administration raises and stabilize the progestin rate for up to two or three days. However, the gel is generally prescribed for use 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 (IVF). Other brands of such gels include Progestogel, Endometrin, and Prochieve.
Duphaston. Meds of the dydrogesterone group (Duphaston, Dufaston, Dabroston, and Terolut brand names) are artificial analogues of natural progesterone. The drug has a high safety profile, so is safe during pregnancy for the treatment of unwanted gestational termination. In the case of infertility, Duphaston is used in the same dosage pf twice a day for one month following which the dosage can be increased by half again. There are combinations of Duphaston’s active component (dydrogesterone C21H28O2) with estrogen. They’re sold under such brand names as Femoston, Femoston continu, Climaston, and Femaston.
Utrogestan. It is marketed in 50-250 mg caps for oral administration or as a suppository for vaginal use and prescribed in the first weeks of pregnancy to counter risk of unwanted abortion or prevention of early miscarriage.
Other progesterone brands include Progiron (France), Rigest (India), Tugarest (India), Yenatron (South Korea), Yi Ma Xin (China), Luttagen (Poland), Lutogir (Slovenia), Luferti (Portugal), Jarit (Colombia), Gynalven (Cyprus), Crinone (Malta), Aferam (Austria), Colprone (the Sultanate of Oman), Progebel (Belgium), etc.
Important: never use the above medications without consulting a doctor. Professional medical guidance is crucial to identify the correct dosage and duration of the drug administration.