Progesterone is an important female hormone, which plays a significant role in conception and pregnancy. Low progesterone levels can lead to infertility in women. Here’s more on that…
Progesterone is a steroid hormone which is vital for successful conception and healthy pregnancy. This female hormone is secreted by corpus luteum during the process of ovulation. The adrenal glands also produce small amounts of progesterone. The steroid hormone pregnenolone contributes in the production of progesterone.
Progesterone helps in the production of other steroid hormones such as estrogen, cortisol, and testosterone. It goes on to play a major role in regulating the menstrual cycle and preparing the uterus for conception and pregnancy. The term progesterone has its origin from the Latin word gestare, which actually means ‘to bear or carry’. This suggests that progesterone is important for creating a fertile environment for conception, and also to maintain healthy development of the embryo.
The major function of progesterone is to prepare the endometrium for implantation of the egg. Once the egg is implanted, the developing placenta stimulates the body to produce progesterone in order to prevent rejection of the developing embryo. If there is insufficient production of progesterone, it can cause the endometrium to shed and initiate menstruation.
Let’s have a closer look at its role, causes and detection aspects, in the paragraphs below.
|Role of Progesterone in Fertility|
|Progesterone plays a crucial role in female pregnancy by providing an adequate environment for a successful pregnancy. It helps in reproduction by stimulating certain changes in the uterus with optimum increase in body temperature. It supports a healthy pregnancy by promoting the tissue development and blood supply in the layer where the embryo is attached. Thus, it encourages the survival of the fertilized egg through a healthy implantation process. Progesterone strengthens and maintains the endometrium, which firmly holds the embryo throughout the pregnancy. It also prevents premature shedding of the endometrium i.e. menstruation.
Low progesterone is one of the leading causes of infertility in women. During the monthly menstrual cycle, there is a remarkable increase and decrease in the levels of progesterone. At the time of ovulation, there is a significant rise in its level. If fertilization doesn’t take place, then the level decreases. The reduction in both estrogen and progesterone levels results in shedding the endometrium. Progesterone infertility can result from a deficiency of progesterone or excess production of estrogen. If there is a remarkable drop in the levels of progesterone during the first 10 – 12 weeks of pregnancy, it can lead to miscarriages. There is a risk of premature birth due to extremely low levels of progesterone during pregnancy. Low progesterone prevents either implantation of the egg or survival of the embryo by shedding of the endometrium after implantation, and thus, becomes a major cause of infertility in women between the age of 30 and 40 years.
|There are many possible causes of low progesterone levels, such as dominance of estrogen, resistance to insulin hormone, chronic stress, insufficient exercise, intake of high-sugar foods, and a diet that doesn’t contain adequate amount of nutrients.
It causes symptoms such as infertility, fibrocystic breasts, thyroid dysfunction, weight gain, irregular menstrual cycle, blood clots during menstruation, vaginal dryness, breast tenderness, gallbladder disease, low blood sugar, and water retention.
|Women who experience infertility or a miscarriage should consult a gynecologist. The gynecologist would suggest certain tests to detect the progesterone levels. It involves checking the fertility cycle and blood test to determine the progesterone level after ovulation. Low progesterone causes a short luteal phase (the period between the ovulation and the day before the next period). Due to this, the luteal phase lasts less than 10 days.
A progesterone level is measured to detect ectopic pregnancy and threatened miscarriages, and to monitor the placenta and fetal health during a high-risk pregnancy. It is also measured to monitor the effectiveness of progesterone injections given for maintaining the pregnancy.
Low progesterone can be treated with injections, capsules, and vaginal suppositories. Natural progesterone creams are also available, which can help in preparing the uterus for implantation. Women with a history of miscarriages should opt for natural progesterone creams soon after ovulation to supplement the body’s own progesterone. However, it is essential to consult a gynecologist before using such products, since its benefits are debatable.