Progesterone levels, so what is the deal with them anyway?
This hormone is secreted by the corpus luteum in the ovary during the second half of the menstrual cycle. When an egg is released from the ovary during ovulation, the remaining part of the follicle is called the ‘corpus luteum. This releases the hormone progesterone. If an egg is fertilized in that cycle, progesterone is needed to increase blood supply to the uterus. When the placenta is developed, it takes over producing progesterone. Progesterone Levels increase after ovulation and stimulate the lining of the uterus to mature and become a thick, cozy bed for your embryo to implant into. The rise of progesterone is hormonal confirmation that ovulation is taking place. If that egg or ovum is not fertilized within 12 to 24 hours after ovulation, you can expect about 12 to 14 days for progesterone and estrogen levels to drop. The line of your uterus is then no longer supported by progesterone and in turn slough and we then have our menstruation cycle starting.
What is the ideal progesterone level?
I get asked the question often what is an optimal level once pregnant or what level would indicate the need to supplement progesterone. This varies greatly on your personal medical history including history of miscarriage, diagnosis, and medical provider’s approach. I supplement when progesterone levels are 10 ng/mL and lower with no previous history of miscarriage or low levels. If their history includes loss or certain other factors, I will start progesterone following ovulation. Once again, this will depend on your provider, but I encourage you to advocate for progesterone levels to be checked with any reoccur miscarriages and supplementing when levels are low. There are now home tests you can utilize to determine your progesterone levels. My approved home progesterone tests can be found here. This is helpful when determining if you actually ovulate as well as if your levels are remaining elevated during pregnancy. Far too often, I see low levels of progesterone leading to miscarriages. Always advocate for your levels to be checked if you are concerned.
Signs of low progesterone
Mood fluctuations including anxiety or irritability
Irregular menstrual cycle
What can you do to improve progesterone levels?
Disclaimer, not everyone will agree with this. But will it hurt to try? These are overall healthy changes to promote a healthy lifestyle so while we may not know if it helps it won’t hurt you to try. Some feel adding certain foods to your diet will support progesterone levels. This includes foods such as beans, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, nuts, pumpkin, leafy greens, and healthy fats. Vitamin B-6 and zinc are thought to help keep hormones balanced. Other supplements that help support progesterone include magnesium, vitamin c, and L arginine. One study did show that as magnesium levels increased, estrogen decreased. Estrogen and progesterone work in opposition. When estrogen levels are low, progesterone will increase.
Things that impair progesterone levels
There are certain diseases and conditions that can impair progesterone levels including hypothyroid, PCOS, elevated prolactin levels, and estrogen imbalances. Elevated cortisol levels from chronic stress are thought to divert the available pregnenolone to produce higher amounts of cortisol to help you get through the stress. This means there might not be enough to produce sufficient levels of progesterone.
Just remember, you know your body best. Always advocate if something doesn’t seem right. There is no such thing as a silly question!
Also Read: 10 Steps to Become an Infertility Advocate
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