Progesterone is one of the most important sexual hormones in women, and low progesterone symptoms can include a wide range of manifestations. From menstrual irregularities, to fertility issues, and even mood changes, progesterone can affect many different parts of our life.
Being able to identify symptoms of low progesterone can be very helpful for you to determine when it may be time to bring up your concerns with your doctor. Additionally, low progesterone can lead to increased estrogen levels. Symptoms of these imbalances can include:
- Irregular periods
- Fertility issues
- Mood swings
- Breast tenderness
- Abdominal pain and bloating
…And many others. Read on to learn more about progesterone and low progesterone symptoms.
What is progesterone?
Progesterone is a hormone that belongs to a category of steroid hormones called progestogens. There are also synthetic hormones that can be used for medical purposes — such as contraceptive pills or hormone replacement therapy (HRT) — called progestins.
According to The Society for Endocrinology, progesterone is mainly secreted by the corpus luteum, which is a temporary structure that forms in the ovary during the second half of your menstrual cycle. When a woman gets pregnant, the placenta takes over the production of progesterone after a few weeks.
Progesterone plays an important role in the menstrual cycle and in the maintenance of pregnancy. During the menstrual cycle, it promotes the thickening of the endometrium, which is the inner layer of the uterus where a fertilized embryo would implant. According to The National Infertility Association, it’s necessary for your endometrium to reach a certain thickness so the embryo can successfully implant and start to develop.
Progesterone also promotes increased blood flow to the endometrium, which allows for the embryo to receive nutrients so it can grow properly. Additionally, progesterone stops your body from releasing a new egg once you conceive, and it prevents uterine contractions that could lead to miscarriage or premature labor. Progesterone also helps prepare your breasts for lactation and breastfeeding, and it even strengthens your pelvic wall muscles to help you prepare for childbirth.
If you don’t get pregnant, normal progesterone levels fall so that your body “realizes” that you didn’t conceive, triggering a normal period.
Symptoms of low progesterone
Estrogen and progesterone are the two most important female hormones, and under normal circumstances, there should be a balance between them. But when progesterone levels are too low, estrogen levels tend to increase, leading to estrogen dominance. So along with symptoms of low progesterone, patients will usually also have symptoms caused by high estrogen.
Symptoms of estrogen dominance
As we stated above, estrogen dominance is a frequent consequence of decreased progesterone. Just like progesterone, estrogen is an important hormone that plays a role in many processes in the human body, and low progesterone can cause symptoms due to the relatively high levels of estrogen.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, symptoms of estrogen dominance can include:
- Headaches or migraines
- Breast tenderness
- Abdominal bloating
- Mood swings
- Hot flashes
- Low sex drive
- Weight gain
- Increased PMS symptoms
- Gallbladder problems
Menstrual cycle irregularities
Progesterone is heavily involved in your menstrual cycle. A natural decrease in progesterone levels is one of the main triggers of menstruation — and if your progesterone is too low, your menstrual cycle will likely be irregular as a result. According to the Hormone Health Network, this can lead to:
- Missed periods
- Irregular periods
- Abnormal uterine bleeding
- Spotting and/or abdominal pain
Because of the large role that progesterone plays during ovulation and early pregnancy, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that progesterone deficiency can lead to various fertility issues. According to information published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, low progesterone can lead to higher muscle tone and muscle contraction in the uterus, and it can also decrease our body’s ability to fight immunologic threats, increasing the risk of miscarriage.
Women who experience low progesterone can have a hard time getting pregnant and staying pregnant, since the uterine lining may not be thick enough to support a viable implantation. Due to the increased uterine muscle tone, it’s also possible for women with low progesterone to suffer from miscarriages or premature labor, with all the complications that can be associated with premature birth.
According to a study published by Elsevier, low levels of progesterone and estrogen have also been recorded in women who develop preeclampsia during their pregnancies.
Increased cancer risk
Although rare, chronically low levels of progesterone can increase your risk of cancer.
Over time, low progesterone and estrogen dominance can also lead to endometrial hyperplasia, where the endometrium thickens excessively. According to a study published by the Seminars in Reproductive Medicine, this unopposed estrogen action is a risk factor for endometrial cancer.
If you suspect that you may be suffering from hormonal imbalances, including low progesterone . Your doctor will be able to examine you, order any necessary tests, and prescribe treatment or suggest natural ways to increase progesterone.
Written by Andrea Pinto Lopez on July 13 2021
- Progesterone - yourhormones.info
- PROGESTERONE AND PREGNANCY: A VITAL CONNECTION - resolve.org
- Physiology, Progesterone - ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- Estrogen dominance - va.gov
- Progesterone and Progestins - hormone.org
- The reduction in circulating levels of estrogen and progesterone in women with preeclampsia - pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- Role of Progesterone in Endometrial Cancer - ncbi.nlm.nih.gov