Progesterone is a hormone produced in the body which helps to regulate the menstrual cycle of women. It is naturally secreted by the ovaries in the second two weeks of the menstrual cycle (To be specific, after ovulation in the corpus luteum), the adrenal glands (near the kidney), and, during pregnancy, in the placenta. Progesterone is also stored in adipose (fat) tissue.
Progesterone is a hormone that is produced just before ovulation to enhance the possibility of becoming pregnant. The rise in this hormone’s levels prior to ovulation increases the body temperature slightly; creates more vaginal mucus, which makes sperm more likely to survive to reach and fertilise an egg; and makes the uterus muscles less likely to contract. If a woman does become pregnant, around the eighth week of pregnancy, the main production of progesterone switches over to the developing placenta.
If a woman does not become pregnant, progesterone levels begin to decline after ovulation, enough so that the uterine lining is shed. Along with estrogen, progesterone maintains the balance of the women’s menstrual cycle, producing monthly periods or menstruation.
Men also produce a small amount of this hormone, but it is less important to sexual maturity in men than is testosterone.
What Are The Functions Of Progesterone?
- Works in the reproductive cycle to prepare the uterus for possible pregnancy.
- It is involved in preparing the breasts for lactation.
- In the post ovulatory phase of the menstrual cycle, progesterone makes cervial mucus thicker and stickier making a natural plug for the cervix. This acts to seal the uterus and protect the possible embryo.
- Stimulates the appetite – which is why women are often hungrier in the post ovulation phase of the menstrual cycle.
- Bloated – Progesterone acts on the kidneys causing them to store more salt and water, which is why women often bloat and feel heavier in the second half of the cycle.
- It is extremely helpful in regulation, control, and prevention of diseases like thyroid dysfunction and osteoporosis.
- Progesterone has other actions in the body including improved fat metabolism, increasing bone density, mood-elevation, and it can also act as a natural diuretic.
For Artificial Progesterone Hormone:
- Synthetic progesterone increases blood clotting and can cause blood to clot in the legs and lungs. Increased clotting of blood can often lead to heart attack and stroke.
- Birth control pills that contain progestin can also lead to increase in blood pressure. In some cases, discontinuation of the pills may become imperative for the regulation of blood pressure.
- Synthetic progesterone includes weight gain, Headaches, tenderness of the breast, vaginal discharge, urinary ailments, possible narrowing of the blood vessels and fatigue are some other side effects of this artificial hormone.
Different Forms Of Progesterone
- Synthetic Progesterone (Provera)
This type of progesterone is typically used to trigger menstruation. It comes in both pill form and as an injection, and it generally causes fewer side effects (sleepiness, dizziness) than its natural counterpart.Disadvantage: This is not considered as safe for use during pregnancy.
- Oral (Prometrium)
This is used primarily as a luteal phase supplement. Some studies say that this type of progesterone has the lowest success rates compared to other forms of progesterone. Furthermore, its effectiveness at raising serum progesterone levels may be greater than its ability to raise progesterone levels within the lining of the uterus.Disadvantage: As an oral medication it is metabolized by the liver, allowing for a greater likelihood of side effects (dizziness, sleepiness).
- Progesterone suppositories
This is inserted into the vagina which focuses the uterus. Progesterone suppositories are pharmaceutical compounds suspended in a base unlike cocoa butter. Unlike natural oral progesterone, with the suppositories the liver does not produce the metabolites that lead to side-effects.Disadvantage: Progesterone suppositories can create some discomfort due to their discharge.
- Crinone (gel)
It is progesterone suspended within a bio-adhesive gel. It is inserted into the vagina and packed in a tampon-like applicator. Crinone gel is very efficient in the uterus that the progesterone remains in such concentrations in the uterus. However, Crinone often has minimal impact on serum progesterone levels, meaning that most women apply it just once per day. Additionally, many women find that Crinone is more effective than oral progesterone or suppositories in delaying the premature onset of menstruation.Disadvantage: Crinone gel can accumulate within the vagina and some women may need to have it removed every few days, and this build-up can to lead to vaginal irritation.
- Injectible Progesterone
Used most frequently in intravenous fluid (IVF) cycles, injectible progesterone (progesterone suspended in oil) is typically done daily, intramuscularly, often in a one cubic centimeter (cc) dose. It is a relatively inexpensive option.Doctors usually use injectible progesterone because it is extremely effective, especially in IVF cycles. Serum tests reflect progesterone in oil, allowing levels to be monitored with greater ease.
Disadvantage: Intramuscular injections, already uncomfortable enough, also require a sizeable 20 or 22 gauge needle to cope with the oil?s high viscosity.
Progesterone And Estrogen
- Progesterone helps prevent cancerous and benign breast and uterine changes. That is why progesterone is given with oestrogen because it lowers the risk of uterine cancer. Oestrogen on its own increases this risk.
- The brain has both estrogen and progesterone receptors. In women who have epilepsy, seizures are known to occur more frequently during times of high estrogen (late follicular phase and ovulation) and they are decreased when progesterone is high. In this sense, progesterone acts as a brain anesthetic to some degree. High doses of progesterone can be very sedating.
- Taking estrogen without progesterone therapy to balance the hormonal cycle could cause over stimulation of the endometrium tissue lining of the uterus. This was found to lead to uncontrolled tissue growth, known as hyperplasia, which develops into endometrial cancer. Progestin (but not progesterone cream) can counteract this risk.
- Pure progesterone treatment without estrogen, such as DepoProvera