Often called the pregnancy vitamin, progesterone is a hormone critical to fertility. Without the magic of progesterone, conception, and a healthy pregnancy become difficult. It's a silent messenger that works in conjunction with estrogen to regulate fertility. When you have trouble conceiving, it may be connected to low progesterone levels.
Understanding how progesterone affects fertility is key for using progesterone to boost conception. Each month a woman’s ovaries produce an egg. Once the egg drops into the fallopian tubes in preparation for fertilization, the corpus luteum forms inside the ovaries. The corpus luteum has an ovarian follicle that begins to produce progesterone.
Progesterone plays many roles in fertility, but its primary function early on is to prepare the lining of the uterus or endometrium for egg implantation. If the egg isn't fertilized, then progesterone levels plummet, and menstruation begins. Estrogen production takes over, and the cycle continues.
But if conception has occurred, then progesterone production remains high as the placenta forms and throughout pregnancy. Once the placenta is in place, it generates progesterone and in smaller amounts in the adrenal glands.
Progesterone also helps prepare breasts for breastfeeding. After a woman gives birth, progesterone levels decrease, which allows prolactin to increase. Prolactin signals that it's time for milk production.
If you have low progesterone, you may have trouble becoming pregnant and maintaining a healthy pregnancy.
Progesterone’s superpower is to thicken the uterus lining for egg implantation. If the progesterone levels are low, the lining isn't thick enough, and estrogen takes over, causing the lining to shed with the fertilized egg. The releasing of the lining is the monthly bleeding women experience during their childbearing years.
Shedding the lining too soon causes miscarriages. It takes about 8-10 weeks for the placenta to form, and progesterone is crucial to supporting the fetus while the placenta forms. But you still need progesterone throughout pregnancy and is responsible for many pregnancy symptoms, including nausea.
Without enough progesterone, you may have abnormal bleeding or spotting during pregnancy. While some light spotting may be normal, sustained, heavy bleeding may be a concern. Speak to a doctor if you experience spotting during pregnancy.
If you’re not pregnant, low progesterone may cause shorter cycles or irregular periods. Both can also interfere with conception.
If you suspect you have a progesterone deficiency, you may have one or more of the following symptoms, including:
Progesterone levels also naturally decrease as women age. For older women having trouble conceiving, you may need a progesterone fertility treatment to promote conception.
If you discover you have low progesterone, some treatments can help fertility. The most common one is progesterone cream.
Topical progesterone creams are available without a prescription. The transdermal creams are natural, usually made from wild yams. Women can apply a small amount of the progesterone cream on the arms, wrists, stomach, or thighs 1-2 times per day. Follow the instructions for the treatment or ask your health care professional.
Progesterone creams easily enter the bloodstream when applied topically. The treatment helps boost progesterone naturally so that women have an easier time conceiving due to low levels.
Menopausal women can also use progesterone creams to combat the symptoms associated with this transition. Progesterone supplements help alleviate vagina atrophy, hot flashes, weight gain, and other menopausal symptoms.
Progesterone can also be found in pill or tablet form. Instead of applying progesterone to the skin, taking a drug may work better for you. Yet the liver dissolves progesterone rapidly, so a smaller amount may enter the bloodstream. The result is that you may have to take more oral progesterone than if you applied a cream.
Another option is using a vaginal suppository with progesterone. The progesterone suppository is inserted inside the vagina and may increase a healthy pregnancy outcome by enhancing uterine lining.
Progesterone hormone replacement therapy replaces the missing hormones with natural ones. While typical, there is some controversy surrounding hormone therapy. Hormones are mighty messengers that regulate everything from fertility to mental health. Taking control of your body's natural production can have some side effects. However, symptoms are more associated with synthetic progesterone than natural ones.
Some of these symptoms include headaches, breast tenderness, and depression. If you're taking a topical cream, patch test it before applying it on different parts of your body. A patch test will tell you if you have an allergic reaction, such as swelling, itching, or redness.
Progesterone creams use natural ingredients, but there are other ways to boost hormone production.
Your body produces progesterone, not food. However, consuming certain foods may encourage your body to generate more progesterone. Some of these foods include:
Adding these foods into your diet doesn't guarantee robust progesterone levels, but it may make you feel healthier and stronger, which can encourage fertility as well.
The exact science behind what causes stress and everything it affects isn't precise. However, stress causes more cortisol (the stress hormone) to circulate in your body. The more stressed you become, the more difficult it may be to conceive.
The common adage of "relax it will happen" is the worst thing you can utter to someone trying to conceive, but there could be some truth in it. Look at your lifestyle to determine what kinds of stress you can eliminate. Perhaps, this will encourage higher levels of progesterone.
Using progesterone to help fertility is something doctors have known for years. The powerful importance of the hormone for conception and sustaining a healthy pregnancy can't be understated. Yet if you have low levels, natural treatments using progesterone creams, a healthy diet, and alleviate stressors can help you conceive.
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