Balanced hormones are essential to fertility health, and maintaining a healthy, full term pregnancy. One of the key hormones involved is Progesterone. Progesterone production occurs in the second half of the menstrual cycle (after ovulation), and is triggered by Luteinizing Hormone. LH stimulates the corpus luteum (the remnant egg sac) in the ovary to produce progesterone.
Progesterone’s main job is to prepare the body for pregnancy. It triggers the uterine lining to become nice and thick, in preparation for a newly fertilized egg. It also prohibits the muscle contractions in the uterus that would cause the body to reject an egg. While the body is producing high levels of progesterone, the body will not ovulate.
If you do not become pregnant, the corpus luteum breaks down, lowering the progesterone levels in the body. This change sparks menstruation. If you do conceive, progesterone continues to stimulate the body to provide the blood vessels in the endometrium that will feed the growing baby. Progesterone maintains the lining of the uterus which makes it possible for a fertilized egg to attach and survive.
Progesterone is so important for the maintenance of a healthy pregnancy that the placenta actually begins to make progesterone itself. Once the placenta develops, it begins to secrete progesterone to support the corpus luteum. This causes the levels to remain elevated throughout pregnancy, so the body does not produce more eggs. It also helps prepare the breasts for milk production.
One of the main reasons women are progesterone deficient is because they have too much estrogen in the body. What does this look like?
Now we know the symptoms of both Progesterone Deficiency and Estrogen Dominance, but how is one or the other actually diagnosed? Thankfully, you have a few options!
My favorite method to test hormones is through dried urine testing. I use DUTCH testing with my clients – Dried Urine Test for Comprehensive Hormones. This is the most comprehensive, accurate way of testing sex steroid and adrenal hormones in my opinion. The test is done at home, during your luteal phase.
Other at-home ways of learning about your hormones include charting your menstrual cycle to determine the length of your luteal phase (a short luteal phase can indicate low progesterone levels) and tracking your basal body temperature (consistently low BBT may indicate low progesterone production).
Basal Body Temperature Charting (BBT)
Basal Body Temperature charting can help to determine the availability of progesterone in the luteal phase. There will be a slight, steady rise in body temperature after ovulation has occurred and progesterone has increased. The body’s resting temperature increases four-tenths of a degree Fahrenheit or two-tenths of a degree Centigrade under the influence of progesterone at ovulation. An irregular or consistently low BBT may indicate low progesterone and luteal phase defect.
Length of luteal phase
If the date of ovulation is fewer than 11 days before your period, this could suggest luteal phase defects. You can detect ovulation using BBT charting or by using ovulation predictor kits (my favorite is Clear Blue Advanced Digital).
There are many ways to naturally support progesterone production!
The easiest, and potentially the most important one, is to limit your exposure to xenoestrogens. What exactly are xenoestrogens? They are substances not naturally found in nature that have hormonal effects on the body. They have an estrogenic effect on both the male and female bodies. Because estrogen and progesterone work like a seesaw, as one goes up the other goes down, so increased estrogen exposure causes progesterone deficiency. These toxic substances are easily absorbed through the skin and build up in the body over time.
So what do xenohormones look like in our daily lives? Here’s what you need to avoid:
My second recommendation for naturally supporting your progesterone is to use bioidentical progesterone oil.
Looking to have a more in-depth conversation about how to improve your fertility? Schedule a consultation with me!