23 Apr 2014
The Power of Progesterone
Progesterone is the hormone that a woman’s ovaries produce in the second half of her menstrual cycle. In the first 14 days of the cycle, estrogen is in charge. Estrogen’s job is to grow the cells of the uterus to prepare it for implementation of a fertilized egg. At day 14, presumably when ovulation occurs, estrogen production slows down as progesterone ramps up. Progesterone’s job is to slow down the growth of the endometrial cells and to develop their function. If you become pregnant and a fertilized egg implants itself, progesterone levels will continue to rise. If not, progesterone drops, signaling the end of the cycle, and the whole process starts over again.
But that’s not progesterone’s only job. Progesterone receptors are located in the blood vessels, the liver, breast tissue, the bone, and the brain, and the hormone has an important influence in the functioning of all those parts of the body.
Most of your progesterone is produced by ripened eggs. That means when your ovaries slowly wind down their function and you stop ovulating, progesterone production slows down.
Estrogen, however, can be produced by other cells in the body besides the ovaries, namely fat cells that convert testosterone into estrogens. Plus, we are all exposed to compounds in the environment that act like estrogen in our bodies (xenoestrogens).
So, during perimenopause, progesterone is dropping, but estrogens may not be, leading to a situation called estrogen dominance. This basically means that you don’t have enough progesterone to balance out the activity of the estrogens still circulating in the blood stream. Estrogen dominance causes all kinds of symptoms such as:
- Panic attacks
- Aching body and joints
- Breast tenderness
- Decreased sex drive
- Mood swings
- Allergy symptoms
- Weight gain
- Water retention
- Hair loss
- Heavy periods and bad cramps
Does any of this sound familiar? Welcome to perimenopause!
And the irony is that doctors have been prescribing estrogen, synthetic progestins and antidepressants to women who complain of these symptoms since the 1950’s! This makes no sense. They likely need natural progesterone.
I have worked with dozens of women with perimenopausal and postmenopausal symptoms and 90% of them have some level of estrogen dominance on their hormone tests. So progesterone is an important part of their personalized hormone management plan. Bioidentical progesterone is safe, easy to use, and often resolves symptoms without the need for other hormones.