Does low progesterone cause miscarriage or does it indicate that a miscarriage has already taken place? Low progesterone and miscarriage always go hand in hand; but the peculiar relationship between the two is quite controversial. Leaf through this article which tries to provide an answer to the question by explaining the role of progesterone in pregnancy.
According to some experts, low progesterone is not a cause of miscarriage but it is a sign of a miscarriage that has already occurred due to some other reasons like chromosomal abnormalities in the growing fetus. Experts say that when the body starts preparing for miscarrying the pregnancy that has already failed due to other unfavorable factors, it exhibits symptoms like low progesterone levels. So supplying progesterone at this time can be of no use.
According to some other experts, low progesterone levels in pregnant women indicate a miscarriage that is going to happen. According to them, low progesterone levels are responsible for an unsuccessful pregnancy. So they recommend progesterone supplements. Various hormones like estrogen, progesterone, FSH, LH, etc., play an important role in ovulation, menstruation, pregnancy and childbirth. In women, hormonal imbalance can lead to several health complications.
Low Progesterone and Miscarriage Symptoms
A non-pregnant woman may have progesterone between 1 to 28 ng/ml. As soon as the woman succeeds in conceiving, progesterone levels rise significantly. The corpus luteum releases ample progesterone during early pregnancy. Progesterone levels during 12 weeks of pregnancy can be between 9 to 47 ng/ml. They keep on rising as placenta starts secreting progesterone. 17 to 146 ng/ml is the range of normal progesterone levels during 12 to 28 weeks of pregnancy. After 28 weeks of pregnancy, progesterone level range would be 55 to 200 ng/ml, till birth. These natural changes in the hormonal levels indicate that high progesterone levels are essential for a healthy pregnancy.
In non-pregnant women, low levels of progesterone can lead to heavy menstruation, fatigue, etc. After ovulation, if fertilization does not take place, progesterone levels do not rise. This causes shedding of the endometrium (uterine lining) and the woman experiences menstruation. If the woman succeeds in conceiving, progesterone levels rise significantly. In early pregnancy, symptoms like low progesterone levels are usually followed by cramping (uterine contractions) and menstruation (miscarriage), fatigue, etc.
Before childbirth also, low progesterone levels are noticed. At the end of the pregnancy, when progesterone levels fall down, uterine contractions and onset of labor is experienced. Most miscarriages occur during the first 10 to 12 weeks of pregnancy. It is also believed that most miscarriages occur even before the women come to know about the pregnancy. Hormonal imbalance is one of the main causes of miscarriage.
Functions of Progesterone During Pregnancy
The hormone progesterone is one of the important female hormones as it helps the body to prepare a safe environment for the fetus. It helps the body to hold the fetus in the uterus and thus promotes healthy pregnancy. Progesterone stimulates the tiny glands on the endometrium to secrete a fluid which keeps the sperms alive and also nourishes the embryo.
Immediately after conception, progesterone released by the corpus luteum stimulates the growth of blood vessels in the endometrium which helps bring more and more blood to the uterus. This is essential for the healthy growth of the fetus. It also prevents growth of cells near the placenta or uterus so that no damage is caused to the fetus. Thus progesterone helps prepare a safe place for the fetus and ensures that the fetus is well-nourished. High progesterone levels help hold the fetus inside the body. Progesterone prevents menstruation.
Women who want to get pregnant soon know about the elevated body temperature during ovulation. Progesterone helps the body to maintain slightly elevated temperature during ovulation. If fertilization takes place, body temperature of the woman remains elevated (very early sign of pregnancy); otherwise it drops down to the normal range. During early pregnancy, a high rise in progesterone levels is also noticed.
Progesterone makes the endometrium thicker than normal so that it can hold the fetus safely. It also plays an important role in thickening of the vaginal epithelium and cervical mucus. This helps prevent infections and damage to fetus. High progesterone levels stimulate development of the breast tissue and milk production but they prevent release of milk before childbirth. Low progesterone levels (at the end of the pregnancy) trigger release of milk from the breast. Thus, progesterone levels are seen changing according to the need of the body.
Several hormonal changes take place in the body of a pregnant woman. Maintaining normal hormonal levels is very essential if you want to have a healthy baby. Since low progesterone and miscarriage symptoms go hand in hand, it is necessary to have normal levels of progesterone before and during pregnancy. And, women should always consult the doctor before taking progesterone supplements. Whether these supplements help hold pregnancy is another question of fierce debate; but wrong dosage can lead to serious side effects. It is always better to maintain hormonal balance with the help of healthy diet, regular exercise and stress relieving techniques like meditation, and yoga.