Progesterone is a hormone made in the adrenal cortex and the ovaries of women. Progesterone, a sex hormone, is involved in sexual development and reproduction. Like all hormones, progesterone travels through the bloodstream and nourishes the vagina, cervix, uterus, testes, breasts, blood vessels, bones, and brain. Lets review some signs of low progesterone.
How Does the Body Use Progesterone?
Progesterone is important for a variety of bodily functions such as-
- During pregnancy, progesterone is used to develop mammary glands, preparing the body for lactation.
- Progesterone decreases intestinal activity.
- Progesterone prepares a woman’s endometrium for implantation of an egg.
- Progesterone reduces mucus production in the cervix.
- Progesterone reduces uterine contractions during pregnancy.
- Progesterone stops the endometrium from building up.
- Progesterone supports and helps maintain a pregnancy.
- An increase in progesterone will inhibit ovulation.
Signs of Low Progesterone
Progesterone levels wax and wane throughout a woman’s monthly cycle. Typically, progesterone levels increase following ovulation to help sustain the uterine lining for pregnancy. Many women experience low progesterone levels sometime during their lives. Let’s take a look at the top symptoms associated with low progesterone levels.
Changes in Your Mood, Including Depression and Anxiety
Progesterone helps create neurotransmitters, especially Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) . GABA blocks certain brain signals by reducing neuron activity and nerve transmission, thus producing a calming effect. When your progesterone levels are low, you may experience irritability, anxiety, insomnia, and depression. These changes in your mood can worsen right before your cycle, causing the mood swings associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
Hot Flashes are defined as the sudden feeling of warmth in your body, particularly in the upper portion, including your chest, neck, and face. When you experience a hot flash, your skin may become red and flushed, and you may experience excess sweating. If your hot flashes decrease your body heat, you may experience a chilling sensation following a hot flash. Hot flashes are typically caused by a sudden change in hormone levels. When your progesterone levels are low, your estrogen level may rise quickly, creating a hot flash.
If you have low progesterone, you may have trouble getting pregnant or staying pregnant. There are many causes of miscarriages and infertility. If you are having fertility issues, consider having your progesterone levels checked. Progesterone is needed to thicken the endometrial lining and prepare the uterus for pregnancy. If progesterone levels are low, the lining will not thicken properly and pregnancy cannot be maintained.
Irregular Menstrual Periods
At the beginning of your menstrual cycle (during your period), your progesterone cycle will be low. The levels will increase throughout the cycle, preparing the womb for pregnancy. If the egg is not fertilized, progesterone levels will fall and cause your period to start at the end of your cycle. Typically, a menstrual cycle is approximately 28 days long. If your cycle is too long, too short, or irregular, you may have low progesterone levels.
18% of American women suffer from migraine headaches. Although low progesterone levels are not the only reason women suffer from migraines, low progesterone can play a role in the severity and frequency of headaches. Women suffering from low progesterone levels often experience migraine headaches before and during their menstrual cycle. When a woman has low progesterone levels, the body experiences a relative estrogen excess. Increased estrogen causes water retention and vasodilation, both of which can cause headaches.
Low progesterone levels can cause weight gain. Women must ensure their hormones are balanced for effective weight loss. Even if you eat healthily and exercise, you may be unable to lose weight or may experience weight gain if you have low progesterone levels. When your progesterone levels decline, your ability to burn fat reduces and your metabolism slows down.
Causes of Low Progesterone Levels
Progesterone deficiencies can occur for a variety of reasons. The top three reasons for low progesterone levels in women in American include-
Environmental estrogen, also known as xenoestrogens, are chemicals found in our foods and environment that mimic naturally occurring estrogen. Xenoestrogens are found in plastics, animal products, and synthetic hormones. These xenoestrogens confuse the body and cause it to think a woman’s estrogen levels are too high and progesterone levels are too low.
Exercise is great for the body; however, too much of a good thing can negatively impact your hormone levels. For optimal hormone health, you should seek to get approximately 150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly. Getting too much exercise or exercising too hard can cause low progesterone levels.
Stress is defined as the feeling of physical or emotional tension. Stress is the body’s innate reaction to a demand or challenge. Stress, particularly chronic stress, can negatively impact your body, including your hormones. When you are stressed, the body produces the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol limits progesterone activity and blocks progesterone receptors, resulting in low testosterone levels as well.
Increase Progesterone Levels Naturally
If you are experiencing low progesterone levels, here are some options to boost your progesterone levels-
- Eating foods rich in Zinc like shellfish
- Taking a B complex supplement
- Consuming vitamin C rich foods like bell peppers and citrus fruits
- Decreasing stress levels through stress relief techniques
- Getting between seven and nine hours of sleep each night
- Eating a healthy diet
- Getting 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days
Here are a couple of hormone self-assessment questionnaires that can help evaluate your hormone levels. There is no substitute for consulting with your healthcare practitioner.
- Dealing with hot flashes, PMS, low libido, mood swings, headaches, anxiety, or unexplained weight gain? Try our comprehensive Female Hormone Quiz
- For more focus on your estrogens, try our Female Estrogen Dominance Quiz
Need Help Balancing your Progesterone Levels
If you are experiencing the signs of low progesterone levels, contact our integrative women’s health specialists. Our dedicated team will review your symptoms and check your progesterone levels. If we determine that your levels are low, we will guide you on the path to optimal health and balanced hormones through a healthy diet and hormone balancing therapy. In addition, we will guide you to increase progesterone production by reducing your stress via exercise, diet and optimal sleep.