Progesterone

HeadacheAnxiety, mood swings, fatigue, restless sleep, headaches, poor memory and low mood are some of the most common symptoms that many women suffer from if they are progesterone deficient. Menopause and PMS are related to a drop in Progesterone.

In women, progesterone is produced mainly from the ovaries. Progesterone helps in regulating the menstrual cycle and maintaining pregnancy. Progesterone usually peaks during the second half of the menstrual cycle to help prepare the lining of the uterus for implantation. If fertilisation does not take place, the progesterone levels drop and the lining of the uterus would shed its lining causing what is known as menstruation.

During pregnancy, progesterone is produced in high levels from the placenta. It helps to inhibit contractions in the uterine smooth muscles and prepares the breasts for lactation. Many women describe the third trimester of pregnancy where progesterone production reaches a maximum as the best time of their lives despite the excess weight they carry.

Other than pregnancy, Progesterone has an antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, and anti anxiety like effects. Progesterone helps to facilitate building of new bones and may help to prevent osteoporosis. Progesterone also helps to improve mood, memory and concentration and has a calming effect which helps women to have a more restful sleep (always described as sleeping like a baby).

Progesterone also has a protective effect against some cancers, especially the ovarian, endometrial and breast cancers. Promising results have been demonstrated when progesterone was used to treat traumatic brain injury without side effects. This shows that progesterone has a healing effect on the brain and nerves and may explain why progesterone may be used to prevent or reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease. Progesterone may also protect against heart diseases and stroke.

Many people think hormonal supplementation (including progesterone) is only needed after menopause. Progesterone levels usually drop during the perimenopausal period (10 years prior to menopause) and sometimes much earlier than that. Many young women in their twenties and thirties are progesterone deficient. The drop of progesterone in this age gives rise to symptoms as anxiety, mood swings, headaches and restless sleep. In addition to this, progesterone deficiency is usually associated with premenstrual syndrome, infertility, frequent miscarriages and post natal depression.

Progesterone deficiency symptoms may include anxiety, breast tenderness, depression, mood swings, headaches, fatigue, bloating, fluid retention (swollen ankles and fingers), insomnia, mood swings, hot flashes, night sweats, decreased sex drive, joint aches and pains, and fat gain on hips and thighs.

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Progesterone is a precursor to other steroid hormones, including cortisol, testosterone, and the three estrogens (estriol, estradiol, and estrone). Progesterone deficiency may lead to subsequent deficiencies in those hormones. Progesterone also balances the effects of estrogen. Having high levels of estrogens and low to normal levels of progesterone creates an estrogen dominance condition. This condition is characterised by symptoms that are very similar to symptoms of progesterone deficiency (hot flushes and night sweats may be minimal or absent). Estrogen dominance is very common nowadays as we live in an environment flooded with xenoestrogens (chemicals which behave like estrogen in the body as paints, plastics, lotions, food preservatives, insecticides and so on). Estrogen hormones can also be found in dairy products, meat and chicken as the hormone may be added to cow and chicken food to enhance their meat and milk production.

Bioidentical progesterone supplementation is similar in structure to the progesterone our body produces. It is not the same as the synthetic progestins that are widely prescribed. The synthetic progestins have a different chemical structure than the progesterone produced in our bodies and hence their effects and side effects are also different. In New Zealand, bioidentical progesterone is a prescription only product however many practitioners are not aware of it.