Progesterone is a hormone produced in women during the second half/luteal phase of the menstrual cycle and also by the placenta during pregnancy. (NB it is produced by the adrenals in pre-pubescent males and females).
What Does It Do?
Progesterone has a large number of effects on the body including:
- helping to reduce hot flushes during menopause
- improving cholesterol levels
- maintaining the secretory endometrium
- protecting against breast fibrocystic disease
- helping the body use fat for energy
- it is a natural diuretic
- it is a natural antidepressant
- helping with thyroid function
- helping with blood sugar levels
- normalizes zinc and copper levels
- restoring cell oxygen levels
- protecting against endometrial cancer
- restoring libido
- protects against endometrial cancer
- stimulates osteoblast-mediated bone building
- it is necessary for the survival of an embryo and foetus during pregnancy
- improves energy, stamina and endurance
- helps maintain muscle mass
How Progesterone Changes Over Time
One life stage where this hormone is essential is pregnancy, as it prepares the lining of the uterus for implantation of a fertilised egg and then later helps to maintain the embryo during pregnancy. Imbalances or low levels caused by anovulatory cycles are associated with a variety of problems, including:
- post-natal depression
- pre-menstrual tension
Once a woman starts going through menopause, progesterone production slows down prior to a decline in estrogen production and this can cause symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, mood changes and even vaginal dryness or discomfort.
Progesterone and Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT)
Progesterone levels decline faster than estrogen levels during peri-menopause and menopause, resulting in irregular cycles, heavy periods, headaches and mood swings. As a result, progesterone treatment is often preferred over estrogen treatment as the initial therapy for menopausal symptoms.
There is a misconception that women who have had a hysterectomy do not need progesterone. However, it has a complementary effect estrogen, preventing any endometrial proliferation induced by estrogen, and therefore the two hormones should always be prescribed together. Progesterone therapy has been shown to be beneficial for the treatment of PCOS and endometriosis.