Low progesterone is common among women of childbearing age, though not every woman is familiar with what symptoms to look out for. The normal progesterone level for women is 0.1 to 0.7 ng/mL at the beginning of their cycle and 2 to 25 ng/mL at the end, but many womens’ progesterone levels fall short of this.
This article will explore what causes progesterone deficiency and ways to treat and reverse the effects of low progesterone symptoms.
What is Low Progesterone?
Progesterone is a hormone produced by the ovaries that prepares the body for pregnancy. In the first half of the menstrual cycle, progesterone levels are typically low. About midway through the cycle, progesterone levels stimulate the release of eggs from the ovaries (ovulation). When there’s low progesterone, ovulation might not occur.
When ovulation does occur, progesterone levels in the body increase. This progesterone rise aids in thickening the endometrium (the lining of the uterus), where a fertilized egg would implant and develop. If no pregnancy occurs, progesterone levels drop, and the endometrium sheds through menstruation.
If the egg becomes fertilized and implants into the uterus successfully, progesterone levels typically remain high throughout the pregnancy. If progesterone levels are low, the uterus might not thicken enough to keep the embryo implanted.
What Causes Low Progesterone?
There is a wide range of possible causes of low progesterone levels. The most common causes include:
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS affects the ovaries and can cause irregular periods, fertility problems, and other hormonal imbalances. It is one of the most common causes of low progesterone.
Physical or emotional stress can disrupt the body’s natural hormone production, leading to low progesterone levels.
With this condition, tissues that usually line the inside of the uterus grow outside of it. This can cause pain, heavy periods, and fertility problems.
An imbalance in other hormones, such as estrogen, can also lead to low progesterone levels. If estrogen is high, it can suppress ovulation and progesterone production. Thyroid levels, either too low or too high, can also cause low progesterone.
Certain medications, such as birth control pills, corticosteroids, anticonvulsants, and antipsychotics, can cause low progesterone levels.
What are some Low Progesterone Symptoms?
As with other hormone imbalances, low progesterone symptoms can vary. Some women only experience mild symptoms, while others may have more severe ones.
The signs of low progesterone may, however, depend on what stage of the menstrual cycle you’re in when the levels drop. If low progesterone occurs during the follicular phase (the first half of the cycle, before ovulation), you may experience:
- Premenstrual spotting
- Mood swings
- Hot flashes
- Trouble sleeping
- Low sex drive
- Weight gain
If it occurs during the luteal phase (the second half of the cycle, after ovulation), you may experience:
- Irregular periods
- Heavy bleeding during periods
- Pelvic pain
- Breast tenderness
- Chronic acne
During pregnancy, symptoms may include:
- Premature labor
- Slow fetal growth
How to Increase Progesterone Levels
Progesterone deficiency is a reversible condition with low-risk, natural solutions. Here are a few steps that can help to increase progesterone levels and balance hormones:
Identify the underlying cause
The first step is to identify the underlying cause and address it accordingly. If stress is the primary culprit, stress-reducing measures such as yoga, meditation, and aromatherapy may be helpful. If PCOS is the cause, you can consider eating a low-glycemic diet and taking insulin-sensitizing supplements.
Introduce healthy lifestyle changes
Progesterone levels can also increase through lifestyle changes. Regular exercise, for example, has been shown to stimulate progesterone production. Quitting smoking, getting enough sleep, and limiting alcohol consumption can also be helpful.
There are several natural progesterone supplements that can be prescribed by doctors. These can be applied topically or taken orally. Sometimes, a combination of both is necessary to achieve optimal results. You can also consider hormone therapy as an alternative medication.
Low progesterone levels can produce symptoms ranging from mood swings to tiredness to missed periods and miscarriage. Sadly, a surprising number of women do not discover that they have low progesterone levels until they are unable to conceive.
If you experience low progesterone symptoms and think you might have progesterone deficiency, it is important to speak to your doctor. They can carry out some simple tests to confirm the diagnosis and recommend the best treatment options for you. You can also commit to using friendly feminine products to help ease low progesterone symptoms while providing the comfort you need during your menstrual cycle.