Low progesterone levels fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle.
Progesterone is a steroid hormone produced in the female body. It is produced by a corpus luteum (the leftovers of a follicle after the release of an egg) during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. Besides ovaries, it is also produced by the placenta of pregnant women and from the adrenal glands.
Given its enormous importance for the female body, low levels can be dangerous. To know the consequences of low progesterone levels, you must know what its functions are in the body. Why it could be low? What does a low level mean and what would be the consequences?
Why progesterone levels are important?
This steroid hormone is important for you because;
It regulates the menstrual periods and is also important for your sexual desire.
It has a role in conception and pregnancy. It is very important for pregnancy and low levels can cause abortion.
It helps in preparing the uterus (womb) for the attachment of the foetus. It promotes the vascularisation in the uterine lining enabling it to receive the baby.
In combination with other hormones, it's also responsible for stopping the release of further eggs from the ovary.
It also promotes the growth of milk glands in late pregnancy.
What does a low level of progesterone mean?
There is not a constant optimum level of progesterone. It depends on age, gender, pregnancy, ongoing hormone therapy (progesterone supplementation), diet and menstrual cycle stages. The following reference values of normal progesterone levels could help you.
At start of cycle (follicular phase): 0.1-0.7 ng/mL
Towards the end of the cycle (luteal phase): 2-25 ng/mL
First trimester of pregnancy: 9-47 g/mL
Second trimester of pregnancy: 25.6-89.4 ng/mL
Later stages of pregnancy: 48-300 ng/mL
After menopause: Less than 1 ng/mL
What are common low progesterone symptoms?
Given the enormous range of values and fluctuations, you may not be able to clearly define a low level. However, the symptoms of low progesterone are too obvious. A low progesterone level could mean an advancing age, nutritional deficiencies, luteal phase deficiency etc... The following symptoms are often noted.
Sore and tender breasts
Low sexual desire and vaginal dryness
Bleeding between periods
Headaches, depression and mood swings
Same symptoms including;
Irritation and depression
Loss of muscles
What to do with low progesterone?
In case of severe symptoms, you should consult an endocrinologist or gynaecologist. Mild symptoms will go with progesterone supplements, but hormone therapy will be required for severe cases.
If you are not planning for a baby, you may not need to go for treatment. However, a persistent low level should be treated with hormone therapy if you are planning for a baby. The hormonal medications are available in the form of pills (oral), gels and creams or suppositories.
However, the use of hormonal therapies shouldn't be done without consulting professionals as they are associated with side effects e.g., blood clots, breast cancer and cardiovascular problems.
These therapies are also not recommended if you are undergoing treatment for these issues as the symptoms can aggravate. However you can;
Increase the intake of water-soluble vitamins (B&C)
Take a healthy diet containing all essential minerals, particularly zinc.
Try to maintain a stress-free lifestyle as the cortisol released during stressful situations can also lower your progesterone levels.
The progesterone levels drop naturally with age. However, an early fall could be worrisome. It will cause a number of symptoms. The doctors measure progesterone levels by progesterone test. In the case of not having enough progesterone, you should go for treatment options.
See our at-home Progesterone Test here.
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