In order to grasp the importance of knowing how to increase progesterone for a healthier pregnancy, you need to clear all your doubts regarding the ovarian hormone. To be clear, you should be aware of the several facts you didn’t know regarding how progesterone works in the insides of your body.
What is progesterone? Why would you want to increase progesterone? When is progesterone low? How is progesterone related to pregnancy? All these questions need to be answered to get a complete and bigger picture of your body’s miraculous works. Let’s start with progesterone and pregnancy.
Everything You Need To Know About Progesterone In Pregnancy!
Many of us know how pregnancy works. At the bare minimum, you must know how the fertilization and implantation of the egg after ovulation lead to conception. But do you know the complexities of what leads to pregnancy? Are you aware of the vital role progesterone plays in a healthy pregnancy? If not, let’s begin with the first port of call: the luteal phase.
The luteal phase(1) is the phase when your body prepares itself for pregnancy. And progesterone is significantly essential during early pregnancy. Why? To answer that, you need to answer this:
Did you know that the placenta that supplies oxygen and nutrition to your baby doesn’t develop until 12 to 14 weeks? If that’s the case, how does a baby survive those 12 weeks without its safety supplier? Here is where progesterone comes.
What Is Progesterone?
Progesterone is a sex hormone belonging to a group of hormones called progestogens, secreted by the corpus luteum in the ovary. The corpus luteum(2) is a temporary endocrine gland a female body produces during the latter phase of the menstrual cycle.
It is formed by the remnants of the ovarian follicle that was enclosing the developing egg until its release at ovulation.
The corpus luteum releases progesterone, which is supposed to prepare your body for pregnancy. If the egg is not fertilized, the corpus luteum breaks down and the production of progesterone falls. This marks the next menstrual cycle. In the event when the egg gets fertilized, the entire scenario changes. Progesterone prepares the tissue lining of your uterus to allow the implantation of the fertilized egg. Also, it is responsible for stimulating the growth of blood vessels —that provides nutrients to the early embryo— in the lining of your uterus and glands. This paves a healthy way for a healthy placenta.
During the early pregnancy, progesterone (which is produced by the corpus luteum) is essential for supporting the pregnancy as well as establishing the placenta. Once the placenta is established, it takes over the production of progesterone around 8-12 weeks of pregnancy.
Progesterone is a naturally produced hormone in both women as well as men. However, it plays a far greater role in women as it is related to fertility, pregnancy, menopause, and the overall health of a woman.
It also includes brain health, mood, metabolism, bones, thyroid issues, and several other issues in the body. In other words, you cannot afford to have a progesterone deficiency.
Why Do You Need Progesterone Throughout The Pregnancy?
Progesterone’s role doesn’t end the minute you let out a squeal of joy at the pink line. In addition to preventing preterm birth, progesterone still works at maintaining a healthy uterus even after the placenta takes over the supply of nutrition. Also, it prevents the smooth muscles in the uterus from contracting, prevents ovulation of another egg, and helps your breasts to get ready to secrete milk.
When there is progesterone insufficiency, you can assume that estrogen dominance has stricken the other side, too. Because both of these hormones work in a little yin-yang process and keeping the balance between the two is necessary for healthy living. Hormone imbalance can affect not just your mental health but also your physical health.
It helps in maintaining the endometrium throughout your pregnancy. So, it’s not just at the beginning of the pregnancy. This explains the need to keep your progesterone levels high throughout the pregnancy to have a healthy pregnancy. If it drops down and you have a hormone imbalance, you may suffer a miscarriage.
The Need For Increasing Progesterone
Keeping pregnancy aside, why do you have to increase progesterone? The need for increasing progesterone arises at the risk of progesterone insufficiency. Aside from miscarriages, the risks include infertility, low sex drive, weight gain, uterine bleeding, irregular periods, mood swings, anxiety, etc. You can find low progesterone signs below.
This is why several women take a combination of progesterone and estrogen during menopause to reduce its symptoms. If you are trying to conceive, you may take supplements to increase progesterone. There are various forms of it, including synthetic forms —also known as progestins.
While some of the natural progesterone products have to be prescribed, some you can get as otc. However, the use of these natural progesterone products, be it supplements, creams, or pills, also comes with side effects.
Symptoms of Low Progesterone
The worst part is that the amount of progesterone needed for a healthy pregnancy is still vague. Not able to track it and manage their levels without help from their doctor is frustrating. This is why knowing low progesterone symptoms is important. If you suspect you have luteal phase progesterone insufficiency or experience these telltale signs of low progesterone, talk to your doctor about treatment immediately.
The symptoms of low progesterone include the following:
- Low sex drive
- Lethargy and brain fog
- Estrogen Dominance (ED)
- Mood swings, anxiety, and irritability
- Slow metabolism, weight gain, sugar cravings
- Fluid retention
- Thyroid issues and bone problems
- Sagging skin and breast tenderness
- Insomnia or sleep disturbance
- Acne, dry cracked skin, and brittle nails
- Headaches, migraines, and joint pains
- Low temperature during the luteal phase
- Luteal phase shorter than the follicular phase
- Late, missed, or irregular menstrual periods
- Mid-cycle spotting
- Cramping or spotting during pregnancy
- Intense hot flashes and night sweats
According to doctors, some women are more at risk for luteal phase progesterone insufficiency. Those women include:
- Women with marginally low body fat or low body weight —BMI of 19 or less
- Women who have a short luteal phase
- Those who have missed their menstrual periods in the past because of stress
- Women with a history of irregular periods
- Those who have experienced early pregnancy losses in the past
- Have hormone imbalances —estrogen/progesterone
- Those who exercise more than 4 hours a week or those who run 20 or more miles per week
Why Does Low Progesterone Occur?
Hormonal imbalance —low progesterone and estrogen dominance— occurs naturally at certain points in your lives. For instance, it occurs when you hit puberty. Then, during pregnancy and during menopause. The reasons for, in this case, low progesterone are many.
It could be anything from leading an unbalanced lifestyle to inadequate nutrition to environmental toxins. To understand and, in turn, prevent hormone imbalances, you must be familiar with its causes. If you want to learn about the reasons in detail, keep reading.
As you approach menopause, you ovulate less frequently. This means your body won’t be able to produce sufficient progesterone.
So, after a certain age, which particularly starts from 35, there is a significant yet inevitable decline in progesterone. This cause or reason is not in your control. For those in this category, individualized progesterone creams or bioidentical progesterone therapies are often recommended.
When you are exposed to chronic stress, your body chooses survival over procreation. This means, your brain signals the glands to produce cortisol(3) instead of progesterone. Cortisol also blocks progesterone receptors, preventing your body from using progesterone.
Also, when cortisol levels rise during stressful times, your adrenal glands steal important nutrients from your thyroid gland. This will impact your thyroid function, too. So mental, emotional, and physical stress can push your hormone out of sync. Any individual can control this cause, as opposed to the factor of age.
Hypothyroidism is when there is too little thyroid hormone. Without sufficient thyroid hormone, pregnenolone —which gives birth to progesterone— synthesis cannot happen. Without pregnenolone, your body cannot make progesterone. So all of these go around in a circle.
High levels of prolactin can interfere with progesterone production and inhibit ovulation. Prolactin, the hormone that triggers lactation in women (also in non-lactating women), needs to be balanced for proper progesterone production. Take a look at your poor diet choices and stressful lifestyle to bring a change in elevated prolactin.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
You cannot produce sufficient progesterone without regular ovulation. Because corpus luteum is formed followed by ovulation. Also, without adequate progesterone, you cannot ovulate. This vicious circle requires proper regulation of progesterone. So, treat your PCOS. Also, keep in mind that just because you are having a menstrual period does not necessarily mean that you are ovulating.
Other causes of low progesterone include estrogen dominance, menopause, the food you eat, certain medication you take, and environmental factors. For instance, the chemicals found in plastics have reportedly disrupted the endocrine system of the body. It also plays a role in hormone disruption.
This particular chemical called bisphenol-A (BPA) is present in the urine of more than 90% of the world’s population. So, you have to take care of your body from everything that goes inside your body as well as what you surround your body with to prevent unwanted hormone imbalance. Now, let’s see how to increase progesterone.
How To Increase Progesterone?
Since hormonal imbalance is a relatively common “modern world” issue, many women don’t realize that it’s undermining their health. And some are getting by on the very minimal amount of progesterone. However, emotional and physical struggles due to this problem are nothing easy to handle. So, learn how to increase progesterone to get pregnant, have a healthy pregnancy, or just to keep your body from hormonal imbalance.
Ahead, find different ways to increase progesterone in your body.
Vitamins To Increase Progesterone
Let’s start with vitamins as they play a vitally effective role in balancing healthy hormone production in the body. You have to consult your doctor if you are going to take any vitamin supplement to ensure that it’s suited to your body. Also, you have to ensure that it does not interfere with any medication you may be taking. You can also consume foods that are rich in these vitamins, which are mentioned below.
The following vitamins help support balanced and healthy hormone production:
- Vitamin D
- Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)
- Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6)
- Vitamin E
- Niacin (Vitamin B3)
Progesterone Rich Foods
Foods don’t necessarily contain progesterone. However, some foods —listed below— may help stimulate your body’s progesterone production. Incorporate these foods into your diet and boost natural progesterone levels.
- Brussel sprouts
- Whole grains
You can also try consuming foods that lower the amount of estrogen in the body. This can balance the ratio of estrogen and progesterone. Foods including walnuts, bananas, shellfish, and cabbage can help you in the case of ED. Also, try not to add more anti-progesterone foods (that increase estrogen or that decrease progesterone) into your diet. If you want to consume foods with vitamins, add these to your diet:
Vitamin B6: Egg yolk, chickpeas, dried beans, cabbage, cauliflower, potatoes, spinach, avocado, peanuts, walnuts, bananas, prunes, poultry, fish, tuna, lean red meat, liver, and other organ meats.
Vitamin C: Citrus fruits, oranges, papaya, mango, strawberries, kiwi, watermelon, kale, tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, yellow peppers, and spinach.
Low Progesterone Treatments
To treat low progesterone, you have a few options for low progesterone treatments. Usually, doctors prescribe ovulation-inducing medication such as Clomid and Femara to help you ovulate. These can also increase progesterone. Another option is trigger shots that involve injecting purified hCG. The next option is IVF. This involves giving supplements to increase progesterone via intramuscular injection. Dexamethasone is another option to either help increase progesterone or to help existing progesterone to work effectively.
Although it comes with side effects, progesterone supplements —such as bio-identical progesterone— are far more effective than otc creams. Your doctor can give you prescription level supplements to increase progesterone for preparing your body for conception.
Other Ways To Increase Progesterone Naturally
In addition to opting for natural progesterone treatments, keep in mind the following ways to naturally increase natural progesterone. All of these answer how to increase progesterone in the luteal phase.
- Follow a healthy diet with good fat and maintain a healthy body weight. As excess weight can cause your body to produce more estrogen, it’s impairment to maintain healthy body weight. Also, include foods rich in zinc, magnesium, fiber, sulfur, and the vitamin mentioned above in your diet.
- Manage stress to avoid converting progesterone to cortisol. You can try different ways to relieve stress, such as meditation, yoga, reading, journaling, swimming, running or walking, and other relaxing activities.
- Don’t over-exercise. Instead of tiring your body to produce cortisol and decrease progesterone levels, try moderate exercising. This will help your body to increase progesterone.
- Get an adequate amount of sleep, regularly. Make a conscious decision to sleep early to get at least 7 hours of sleep every night.
- Take herbs known to increase progesterone. One such effective herb is a chaste berry. You can also try Rhodiola Rosea, red raspberry leaf, and maca. If you are trying herbal supplements, choose from a branded company.
- Acupuncture has proved to improve implantation after IVF. so you can try this to get conceived after you consult your doctor.
- Do not forget other ways that prevent hormonal imbalance —drinking 8 glasses of water, limiting sugar intake, reducing processed foods, and avoiding refined carbohydrates, saturated and trans fat.
Progesterone is a female sex hormone that is crucial for pregnancy. This makes low progesterone a problem that needs to be solved. You can try the different ways mentioned above to increase progesterone in your body. Indeed, natural progesterone supplements require more scientific studies. This is why it is always necessary to talk to your doctor about your condition as well as its treatment options. Anyhow, these natural ways are better to opt for to avoid unnecessary side effects of using synthetic hormones.