Early Pregnancy Hormones: Progesterone
The Fab Five of key pregnancy hormones: (hCG, progesterone, estrogen, relaxin, and prolactin) continue with the focus on progesterone. Collectively, these 5 hormones create the life cycle for a healthy pregnancy. Individually, each of these hormones have specific duties that contribute and impact one’s pregnancy. Progesterone is the next hormone in the Fab Five.
What is Progesterone?
Progesterone is one of the female sexual hormones that is produced in the ovaries, and is an important element of menstruation. This is also the hormone that aids the uterus in growth during pregnancy, and sustains it from having contractions early on in a pregnancy. Contractions early on in a pregnancy may lead to miscarriage. Progesterone thickens the uterine lining in preparation of a fertilized egg after ovulation. During the fertile period, levels decrease and menstruation occurs, if an egg is not fertilized. As the pregnancy continues, this hormone supports production of breastmilk through breast developments that have occurred during puberty.
What Progesterone Does
Balance with this hormone is vital in pregnancy. Throughout a pregnancy, a steady level of progesterone helps to nurture a growing fetus. Following a successful implantation, progesterone also helps maintain a supportive environment for the developing fetus. Progesterone levels can be 10 times higher in pregnancy than an individual who is not. Early on in one’s pregnancy, a test can be given to gauge any necessary interventions. A progesterone test is used to:
- Causes of a woman’s infertility
- Know if and when you are ovulating
- Determine the risk of a miscarriage
- Monitor a high-risk pregnancy
- Diagnose an ectopic pregnancy, a pregnancy that grows in the wrong place (outside the uterus). This condition is dangerous, and sometimes life-threatening, for a woman. Source: medlineplus.gov
Risks of Low Levels
There are effects that can be present if low levels of progesterone are suspected. Difficulty in conceiving, and higher risks of miscarriage are some major concerns. A fertilized egg will not be able to implant in a uterine lining that is not thickened enough. When the body has low progesterone levels in women who are not gestating, irregular or absent periods can be a result.
Some symptoms in non-pregnant women are:
- Frequent headaches or migraines
- Mood swings: including anxiety & depression
- Irregular menstrual cycles
How to Help
It is always best to consult one’s medical care provider for suggestions and treatments to aid if low progesterone levels are suspected or found. Supplements are one way that an OB GYN or Midwife may prescribe. These supplements can be in the form of oral or in topical creams/gels. To help prevent preterm births, the medical provider may recommend an intramuscular injection or suppositories, as well.
Understanding progesterone and how it aid the body in preparation for and in pregnancy, can help in navigating infertility and preventing miscarriage caused by low hormone levels.