Approximately 10 percent of women in the U.S. have had trouble becoming or staying pregnant. Are you one of these women who’s struggling with infertility?
If you’re dealing with infertility, a hormonal imbalance could be the problem. Progesterone, in particular, is a female hormone that plays an essential role in a woman’s ability to get pregnant and stay pregnant.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about progesterone. You’ll also learn about the importance of progesterone for fertility and what you can do to increase your body’s production of it.
What Is Progesterone?
Progesterone is a type of hormone known as a steroid hormone. It belongs to a group of hormones known as progestogens.
The corpus luteum secretes progesterone during the second half of a woman’s menstrual cycle. The corpus luteum is a temporary gland that is produced by a woman’s body after she ovulates.
Why Progesterone for Fertility Matters
Adequate progesterone production is essential if a woman wants to get pregnant. In fact, some doctors refer to it as the “pregnancy hormone” because of the crucial role it plays.
Progesterone helps the uterus prepare to accept a maintain an egg that’s been fertilized. It does this, in part, by preventing contractions of the uterine muscles. These contractions can cause the uterus to reject an egg.
Signs of Low Progesterone
It’s clear that progesterone is necessary for pregnancy to occur and last. Many women are struggling with low levels, though. Here are some signs and symptoms that might indicate low progesterone is a problem for you:
- Frequent headaches and/or migraines
- Anxiety or depression
- Diminished sex drive
- Frequent hot flashes
- Menstrual irregularities and an unpredictable cycle
- Unexplained weight gain
- Thyroid dysfunction
- The development of fibroids or endometriosis
These symptoms are most common in women who are not pregnant and dealing with low progesterone. Your progesterone levels can become low during pregnancy, too. This will lead to an inability to carry a pregnancy to term.
In pregnant women, constant breast tenderness and severe fatigue can be signs of low progesterone. Frequent drops in blood sugar can be a symptom, too, as can vaginal dryness.
How to Raise Progesterone Levels
Do any of these symptoms sound familiar to you? If so, it’s important to talk to your doctor and have your progesterone levels tested.
Once you find out that low progesterone is your problem, you can start taking steps to increase your production of it. The following are some of the most effective ways to boost progesterone:
One of the first things you can do when trying to increase your progesterone is to make some changes to your diet. Certain foods are associated with elevating progesterone levels and balancing out female hormones, including the following:
- Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, etc.)
- Pumpkin and pumpkin seeds
- Whole grains (oats, whole grain bread, quinoa, etc.)
It’s also important to make sure you’re consuming adequate amounts of zinc and vitamin B6. Both of these play an important role in hormone balance, and zinc, in particular, can help the ovaries to produce more progesterone.
In addition to dietary changes, you may also benefit from supplementing with certain herbs. Vitex is a popular supplement among those with low progesterone, as it increases luteinizing hormone production, and luteinizing hormone stimulates the ovaries to produce more progesterone.
Another beneficial herb is red raspberry leaf, which is present in a lot of fertility teas. The adaptogen maca seems to be helpful as well.
One of the most important things a woman can do if she’s experiencing low progesterone and infertility is to manage her stress. This is often easier said than done, of course. After all, trying to get pregnant and not being able to do so is a pretty stressful thing!
The better able a woman is to manage her stress, though, the easier it is to produce progesterone. This is because of the stress hormone cortisol.
When you’re chronically stressed, your body may use other hormones to create additional cortisol. This doesn’t leave much behind for promoting fertility and hormone balance.
There are lots of ways to manage stress, from adapting practices like yoga and meditation to reducing the amount of high-intensity exercise you do each week. Slowing down and spending more time at rest can have a big impact on your hormone levels.
Finally, don’t forget about weight management. If you’re overweight, you may experience hormonal imbalances. The same is true if you’re underweight and don’t have enough body fat.
Aim to maintain a healthy weight as much as you can. Don’t undereat or overeat, and make sure you’re consuming a good balance of all three macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fat).
Should You Use Progesterone Supplements?
If the strategies listed above aren’t working and you’re still experiencing low progesterone, you could benefit from incorporating progesterone supplements into your routine. There are many different types of progesterone supplements, including progesterone creams and progesterone pills.
Progesterone creams are very bioavailable, as they get absorbed through the skin and enter the bloodstream directly. Progesterone pills might be easier for some people to use, but they may be less effective since the liver breaks down progesterone very quickly. This minimizes the amount of the hormone that actually makes it into the bloodstream.
There are some potential side effects associated with these supplements. They can cause breast tenderness, headaches, and depression in some cases. However, most women are able to use progesterone supplements without any problems and find that they provide the progesterone benefits they need to improve their fertility.
Start Balancing Your Hormones Today
Now that you know more about the importance of progesterone for fertility and the signs of low progesterone, do you think you need to work on increasing your body’s production of this important hormone? Keep this information in mind as you move forward and talk to your doctor about supplementing to raise your progesterone levels.
Do you want to learn more about fertility and women’s health? If so, visit the Health section of our site today for some additional resources.