Everything you need to know about Progesterone

Dr. Rocio Salas-Whalen

Are you ready to meet our second amazing female hormone? A few weeks back we introduced you to the powerful hormone Estrogen. Today’s spotlight is on Progesterone.

What is progesterone?

Progesterone is a steroid hormone that belongs to a group of hormones called progestogens. It it’s made in the corpus luteum, a temporary gland that the female body produces after ovulation during the second half of the menstrual cycle. It plays a very important role in the menstrual cycle as well as throughout a pregnancy.

Why is progesterone important and what does it do?

Progesterone is a powerful hormone that helps regulate your cycle and prepare the endometrium (uterine lining) for potential implantation of a fertilized egg. While also preventing uterine contractions that could expel the egg. So what does this mean? Well, progesterone triggers the uterine lining to thicken which means that it can accept a fertilized egg. It also stops the contractions that can cause the body to reject an egg. While our body is producing high levels of this hormone we will not ovulate.

So imagine progesterone as the hormone that’s making a cozy and protective environment in your uterus for your future baby to nest, awwwww.

If the woman does not become pregnant, the corpus luteum (temporary gland remember?) breaks down. This results in lower levels in the body which in turn sparks menstruation and a new cycle begins.

So to clarify, during every cycle the progesterone levels rise to prepare us for pregnancy. This usually happens around ovulation and if a pregnancy does happen, then progesterone continues to be produced. If a pregnancy does not happen then the temporary gland that produces progesterone breaks down, the levels drop and you start a new menstrual cycle.

Low levels of progesterone

As with any other hormone, it’s balance is crucial for proper functioning.

If there are low levels the following can happen:

  • Abnormal uterine bleeding
  • Irregular or missed periods
  • Spotting and abdominal pain during pregnancy
  • Frequent miscarriages

In addition, low progesterone can cause too-high levels of estrogen. Which can decrease sex drive, contribute to weight gain, or cause gallbladder problems.

What is progestin?

Progestin is the synthetic form of progesterone. Combined with estrogen it is often used to develop contraceptives such as birth control pills and skin patches. It was developed by scientists because progesterone isn’t absorbed well when taken as a pill.

Progestin, as we’ve mentioned is use in contraceptives and is also useful in treating common menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness. Progestin can also be prescribed to treat amenorrhea, endometriosis, and irregular periods.

When taking progestin for menopausal symptoms, for birth control, or to treat other conditions side effects may occur.  These side effects include mood changes, bloating, headaches, and breast tenderness.  For newly menopausal women, breakthrough bleeding may also occur.

Feel like you’ve got the hang of progesterone? Next week well be looking at AMH, Anti-Mullerian Hormone!


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Dr. Rocio Salas-Whalen

Dr. Rocio Salas-Whalen

This post is written by Dr Rocio Salas-Whalen, CMO at hormona and double board-certified physician in Endocrinology and Obesity Medicine. Currently, Dr Salas-Whalen practices in her own private office in New York City. Dr Salas-Whalen is a strong woman’s health advocate through all periods of a woman’s life. She has a strong interest in improving the quality of life of women going through some hormonal dysfunctions. Including PCOS, infertility, thyroid disease, obesity and menopause to name a few