Progesterone is a female sex hormone produced mainly in the ovaries following ovulation each month. It’s a crucial part of the menstrual cycle and maintenance of pregnancy.
Progesterone helps to regulate your cycle, but its main job is to get your uterus ready for pregnancy. After you ovulate each month, progesterone helps thicken the lining of the uterus in preparation for a fertilized egg. If there is no fertilized egg, progesterone levels drop again and menstruation begins. If a fertilized egg does implant in the uterine wall, progesterone helps to maintain the uterine lining throughout pregnancy.
Progesterone is necessary for breast development and breast-feeding as well. It complements some of the effects of estrogen, another female hormone. It also plays an important role with testosterone, as it is the precursor for adrenal hormones.
Men produce a small amount of progesterone to aid in the development of sperm.
Should I be concerned about low progesterone?
Progesterone is especially important in your childbearing years. If you don’t have enough progesterone, you may have trouble getting or staying pregnant. Each month, after one of your ovaries releases an egg, your progesterone levels should rise. Progesterone helps the uterus thicken in anticipation of receiving a fertilized egg. If it’s not thick enough, implantation doesn’t occur.
Symptoms of low progesterone in women who aren’t pregnant include:
- headaches or migraines
- mood changes, including anxiety or depression
- low sex drive
- hot flashes
- irregularity in your menstrual cycle
- what causes low progesterone in early pregnancy
For women who aren’t pregnant, low progesterone may cause abnormal uterine bleeding. Irregular or absent periods may indicate poorly functioning ovaries and low progesterone.
If you do get pregnant, you still need progesterone to maintain your uterus until your baby is born. If your progesterone levels are too low, your uterus may not be able to carry the baby to term.
During pregnancy, symptoms of low progesterone include spotting and abdominal pain. Other symptoms of low progesterone in women who are pregnant may include:
- constant breast tenderness
- unrelenting fatigue
- frequent low blood sugar
- vaginal dryness
Low progesterone may indicate toxemia or ectopic pregnancy. This can sometimes result in miscarriage or fetal death.
Without progesterone to complement it, estrogen may become the dominant hormone. This may lead to a variety of symptoms, including:
- weight gain
- decreased sex drive, mood swings, and depression
- PMS, irregular menstrual cycle, heavy bleeding
- breast tenderness, fibrocystic breasts
- fibroids, endometriosis
- gallbladder problems
- thyroid dysfunction