Warning signs of low progesterone and what to do about it
Progesterone (P4) is an endogenous steroid and progestogen sex hormone involved in the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and embryogenesis of humans and other species. It belongs to a group of steroid hormones called the progestogens, and is the major progestogen in the body.
Progesterone is also a crucial metabolic intermediate in the production of other endogenous steroids, including the sex hormones and the corticosteroids, and plays an important role in brain function as a neurosteroid.
Progesterone has a number of physiological effects that are amplified in the presence of estrogens. Estrogens through estrogen receptors (ERs) induce or upregulate the expression of the PR. One example of this is in breast tissue, where estrogens allow progesterone to mediate lobuloalveolar development.
Elevated levels of progesterone potently reduce the sodium-retaining activity of aldosterone, resulting in natriuresis and a reduction in extracellular fluid volume. Progesterone withdrawal, on the other hand, is associated with a temporary increase in sodium retention (reduced natriuresis, with an increase in extracellular fluid volume)
due to the compensatory increase in aldosterone production, which combats the blockade of the mineralocorticoid receptor by the previously elevated level of progesterone.
Progesterone has key effects via non-genomic signalling on human sperm
as they migrate through the female tract before fertilization occurs, though the receptor(s) as yet remain unidentified. Detailed characterisation of the events occurring in sperm in response to progesterone has elucidated certain events including intracellular calcium transients and maintained changes, slow calcium oscillations, now thought to possibly regulate motility. It is produced by the ovaries.Interestingly, progesterone has also been shown to demonstrate effects on octopus spermatozoa.
Progesterone is sometimes called the “hormone of pregnancy”, and it has many roles relating to the development of the fetus:
Progesterone converts the endometrium to its secretory stage to prepare the uterus for implantation. At the same time progesterone affects the vaginal epithelium and cervical mucus, making it thick and impenetrable to sperm. Progesterone is anti-mitogenic in endometrial epithelial cells, and as such, mitigates the tropic effects of estrogen. If pregnancy does not occur, progesterone levels will decrease, leading, in the human, to menstruation. Normal menstrual bleeding is progesterone-withdrawal bleeding. If ovulation does not occur and the corpus luteum does not develop, levels of progesterone may be low, leading to anovulatory dysfunctional uterine bleeding.
During implantation and gestation, progesterone appears to decrease the maternal immune response to allow for the acceptance of the pregnancy.
Progesterone decreases contractility of the uterine smooth muscle.
In addition progesterone inhibits lactation during pregnancy. The fall in progesterone levels following delivery is one of the triggers for milk production.
A drop in progesterone levels is possibly one step that facilitates the onset of labor.
The fetus metabolizes placental progesterone in the production of adrenal steroids.
The Symptoms of Low Progesterone