Progesterone & Menstrual cycle: How are they connected?
Progesterone is one of the most important fertility hormones that play a crucial role in regulating your menstrual cycle. It is the hormone responsible for preparing your body for conception. Suppose you started replacement therapy and wondering when its effects would kick in. In that case, keep reading this post in this article, we will talk in detail about the role of progesterone, its source in the body, and how it affects your menstrual cycle.
What is Progesterone?
Progesterone is rightly called the pregnancy hormone as one of its most important functions is to prepare your body for the pregnancy and maintain the pregnancy once you conceive. It is important for the development of the sexual organs during puberty as well.
There are three sources of progesterone in the body ovaries, the placenta (if you are pregnant), and the adrenal glands. The concentration of progesterone in the blood directly impacts the thickness of the endometrial lining of the uterus. If pregnancy hormone levels fall in the body, it sends a signal to the uterus, and the endometrial lining is shed, resulting in menstruation.
Where does progesterone come from?
The main source in your body if you are not pregnant is the ovaries. The part of the ovarian follicles that remain in the ovaries after you ovulate transforms into a structure called the corpus luteum that behaves like a temporary endocrine gland. It is this structure that produces progesterone in the ovaries.
Apart from the corpus luteum, a small quantity of progesterone is also produced by your adrenal glands present on top of your kidneys. These are the same glands that produce adrenalin in your body.
Once you are pregnant, the placenta becomes the major source in your body.
What does progesterone do?
As we saw earlier, the major role of progesterone is both in preparing your body for the pregnancy and maintaining that pregnancy once you conceive. Here are some of the ways this happen:
- Stimulates the endometrial lining of the uterus to thicken. The thickening of the endometrium is essential for the proper implantation of the embryo once it arrives in the uterus.
- It also alters the composition and thickness of the cervical mucus. Under the influence of progesterone, the cervix produces mucus that can keep any bacterial infection at bay.
- Once you are pregnant, progesterone is responsible for maintaining the thickness of the endometrial lining so that the fetus can continue growing.
- Responsible for inhibiting uterine contractions during the entire duration of pregnancy. In case of a lack of progesterone, the uterus might contract, causing the expulsion of its contents and causing the termination of the pregnancy.
- Another way the hormone progesterone prepares you for pregnancy is by priming the milk-producing glands of your breasts to start the process of milk formation.
As you can see, progesterone wears many proverbial hats in your journey to motherhood. As you move through the different phases of your menstrual cycle, the level of this hormone changes depending on the body’s needs.
Why have I been prescribed medications?
The most common reason for your OBGYN prescribing progesterone is if you are having any fertility issues. That said, there can be other reasons you are being prescribed this hormone. Progesterone treatment is often useful in treating PMS and abnormal uterine bleeding.
If you are trying to conceive, progesterone may be prescribed to you to help you get pregnant. It is most commonly prescribed to initiate menstruation if your ovaries cannot synthesize enough amount of it naturally.
Certain medical conditions and some medicines may also suppress the ability of the ovaries to make progesterone, thereby necessitating supplementation. In many cases, progesterone supplementation is necessary to help you get pregnant and maintain that pregnancy once you conceive.
Progesterone and periods: how it works?
Your menstrual cycle is a finely tuned process controlled by the fluctuating levels of various hormones, including progesterone. The rise and fall in the progesterone levels indicate to your body lining the right time to shed the endometrial lining and initiate the periods.
The progesterone level is lower before ovulation, but as the ovulation completes, it becomes the most dominant fertility hormone. If you don’t get pregnant, the hormone level falls again, triggering the shedding of the menstrual cycle and the beginning of your periods. Suppose there is a problem in the rise and fall in the level of progesterone in your body. In that case, you might experience irregularities in your periods and, consequently, difficulties in getting pregnant.
Forms of progesterone treatments
Many treatments are available in various forms, and you have the liberty to choose from many options. Both synthetic and natural replacement hormone treatments are available in the market in the following dosage forms-
The form replacement prescribed depends on the results your OBGYN wants to achieve. You can talk to your doctor to discuss all your options before prescribing a particular form of the hormone.
How soon will I get my periods on progesterone?
Typically, you need to wait for at least two weeks before your periods start after initiation of the progesterone therapy. As Prometrium therapy can delay your period, your doctor will also ask you to perform a home pregnancy test. If you don’t get pregnant, your period will resume after 2-5 days of stopping the progesterone therapy. Your doctor might order additional tests if you don’t get your period after 10-14 days of stopping the progesterone therapy.
What happens if I don’t get my period after using progesterone?
If you don’t get your periods even after stopping the Prometrium therapy, your doctor might need you to get some additional lab tests. One of the most common reasons for not having a period after stopping the progesterone treatment is that your body produces insufficient amounts of estrogen. The treatment and intervention will depend on the test results.
Are there any side effects of progestin treatment?
There might be some side effects in some women on Prometrium therapy. As progesterone therapy is prescribed for many reasons, from helping you conceive to diagnostic aid, the side effects vary from woman to woman. The most common side effects of progesterone are very similar to those you experience during PMS, as progesterone is at its peak concentration at that time of the month.
There can be serious side effects of progesterone, including blood clots, changes in the amount of bleeding during your periods, and even depression. Some of the less severe side effects of progesterone therapy include the following-
- Having cramps similar to the ones you experience during PMS
- Increase in bleeding during menstruation
- Dry mouth and dizziness
- The feeling of tiredness and irritability
- Feeling bloated
Some scientific studies conclude that progesterone might impact your sex drive as well. Higher levels of the pregnancy hormone have been associated with a drop in sex drive among women receiving replacement treatment.
There has been a significant development in finding alternatives to traditional progesterone treatments. Although the herbal supplements and diets that claim to increase the level of natural progesterone in your body have not had much scientific success, many ongoing studies are looking into them.
Perhaps the best alternative to progesterone treatment is positive changes that you can make in your lifestyle. Maintaining a healthy weight, getting enough sleep, and reducing stress go a long way to regulate the level of various fertility hormones, including progesterone.
Owing to the tremendous role that progesterone plays in your reproductive system and overall health, it is certainly one of the most important hormones of your body. Unfortunately, the only way to track the levels of this hormone in your blood is a lab test that needs to be prescribed by your doctors.
That said, some promising research is being conducted at some of the best research institutes across the world regarding the development of a home progesterone test kit. It is not long before you can be using a home test which is similar to a pregnancy test kit or an ovulation predictor kit to detect the level of this important hormone in your body.