Progesterone cream is often the recommendation when a woman has low progesterone. It's easy to find over the counter and it makes sense that if you're low in progesterone, it's probably worth supplementing. I like to take a few steps back from that thinking and consider why you might not be producing enough progesterone and start building up the system that way. Let's first take a look at what progesterone does for you body and why it's important.
Progesterone versus progestin
Before diving into what progesterone is, let me first explain what it is not. Progesterone is a hormone produced in your body or produced in a lab from a medicinal herb, generally Wild Yam. Progestin is a synthetically produced compound that is commonly found in hormonal birth control pills and hormone replacement therapies. Progestin does not have the same effect in the body as progesterone. Over-the-counter progesterone creams usually contain manufactured progesterone, not progestin. Got it? Ok, let's move on to what progesterone deficiency might look like in the body.
Progesterone in your body.
Progesterone is a hormone produced from cholesterol and is important in the second half of your menstrual cycle in order to create the ideal environment for implanting a fertilized egg in pregnancy. It's super important in fertility and also other conditions like PCOS, hypothyroidism, PMS, Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysregulation and many other types of hormone imbalance. After ovulation, the corpus luteum forms in the ovary and starts releasing progesterone. So, if ovulation isn't happening, then progesterone isn't happening so well. Recent research is also highlighting the effects of progesterone in breast, cardiovascular and nervous system health. Needless to say, progesterone is essential to our whole health picture.
Symptoms of progesterone deficiency
- Hot flashes
- Low libido
- Anxiety and depression
- Irregular menstrual cycles (particularly short luteal phases, which is the time between ovulation and when your period starts)
- Poor sleep
- Thyroid hormone imbalance
Progesterone levels can be measured with a simple test that can be run to see if it is contributing to your symptom picture. Keeping track of your menstrual cycle and when you ovulate is another great way of determining general progesterone status.
Is progesterone cream the answer?
Like I said above, progesterone cream does treat the progesterone deficiency but misses the deeper underlying meaning of why you might be deficient in progesterone in the first place. It might be a lack of nutrients like cholesterol or magnesium in the diet, chronic stress or elevated estrogen. I would much rather see an increase in the natural production of progesterone rather than supplementing, if possible. That being said, if a woman were to not be interested in waiting to increase progesterone levels naturally and is interested in becoming pregnant or becomes pregnant, progesterone cream could be beneficial in maintaining a healthy pregnancy. That might be my one exception. Not my first choice but, there's the ideal scenario and then there's real life, right?
So, what is the best way to increase progesterone?
If you know you're progesterone deficient, check out my post on ways to increase progesterone naturally.
If you suspect you may be progesterone deficient and are looking to for a practitioner to help identify and treat the root cause of your symptoms, click here to find out how to become a patient. I work with people locally in Bend, OR and long-distance.
Photo by Nicole Mason