Fertility & Progesterone
Progesterone is recognized as a vital female hormone central to successful conception and a healthy pregnancy. The word “progesterone” is itself etymologically related to the Latin root gestare – meaning to bear or carry – suggesting the importance of this hormone in creating a fertile environment for conception and the continuing development of the embryo.
In short, progesterone is a female sex hormone that is secreted by the corpus luteum to prepare the endometrium for implantation of the fertilized egg. Following implantation off the egg, the developing placenta signals the body to produce progesterone and prevent rejection of the developing embryo or fetus. Without this continuing progesterone production, the endometrium would shed and menstruation would ensue. Therefore, progesterone plays a significant role in reproduction. Thus, progesterone…
- Helps create a fertile, warm environment in the womb and promotes the survival of the fertilized egg through healthy implantation.
- Strengthens and maintains the secretory endometrium which sustains the embryo throughout pregnancy.
- Prevents the premature shedding of the secretory endometrium (menstruation).
As progesterone forestalls the shedding of the endometrium (where embryo implantation occurs), low progesterone levels – or a significant drop in progesterone levels – during the first few weeks of pregnancy may correspond with miscarriage.
Here, progesterone plays a ‘secretory’ role in the reproductive organs. It stimulates changes in the uterus and supports pregnancy by increasing blood vessel and tissue development in the endometrium.
Progesterone, Fertility, and Reproduction
During a woman’s cycle, progesterone levels rise rapidly at ovulation to provide a fertile environment for the fertilized egg. Here, progesterone is also responsible for the increase in body temperature at ovulation that lasts through most of the luteal phase. Beginning with ovulation, the corpus luteum produces progesterone for several days (and the concomitant temperature increase is in most cases easily measurable through methods of BBT/fertility charting).
If fertilization and implantation take place, the placenta takes over the role signaling progesterone production and in further maintaining a supportive environment for embryonic and fetal development. If fertilization does not occur, progesterone levels fall dramatically (usually after 10-12 days) triggering the shedding of the secretory endometrium (menses).
Because progesterone is essential in preventing the shedding of the secretory endometrium, a significant drop in progesterone levels during the first 10 – 12 weeks of pregnancy may result in a miscarriage.
Addressing the Issue of Low Progesterone Levels
Low progesterone can be detected by a blood test after ovulation or by charting fertility. Another sign of low progesterone is a shortened luteal phase that lasts less than 10 days.
There are several things you can do to boost deficient progesterone levels. Clearly, visiting a doctor to discuss the nuances of a particular issue may be the best first option. Also important to know, there are herbs and specialty nutrients, for example Vitex and myo-inositol, that may help to promote fertility by optimizing hormone balance, including your progesterone levels.
Women with a history of miscarriage can also use natural progesterone cream as soon as they know they have ovulated, to supplement their own progesterone; however, natural progesterone creams should not be used until ovulation takes place. Consult your physician for more information on the benefits of progesterone and uses/applications.
Other Applications of Progesterone
Progesterone has many other functions, among them protecting against fibrocysts, helping the body use fat for energy, and helping normalize blood clotting and blood sugar levels. Today, many health professionals claim that the symptoms associated with PMS and menopause are due not so much to estrogen, but to a deficiency of progesterone and an overabundance of estrogen. It is believed that progesterone balances estrogen and that an overproduction of estrogen can lead to health problems. However, consult your physician if you have any questions about using natural progesterone creams.