We get a lot of questions from women who are worried about hormone deficiency, and what they want to know more than anything, is what their particular deficiencies might be.
Without hormone testing (which we do recommend) determining individual needs can be a little challenging. But that doesn't mean that you have to go into the process blindly.
This is a list of the signs and symptoms that often accompany low progesterone, designed for those who are searching for where to begin, or what to add to their supplementation.
1. Menstrual Cycle Disruption
Progesterone is the sex hormone most associated with the regulation of the menstrual cycle, especially with the building and shedding of the uterine lining.
Progesterone levels rise over the course of the cycle to prepare the uterus for embryo implantation. If no implantation occurs progesterone levels plummet, which causes the shedding of the uterine lining, and the cycle begins again.
But when progesterone levels are low, the pattern can be disrupted. Low progesterone can cause late, irregular, or even skipped periods. And eventually menopause brings the complete cessation of the menstrual cycle as levels continue to fall.
2. Low Libido
Progesterone does more than build the uterine lining. In fact, progesterone is a dynamic hormone with a variety of effects in the body, including its role as a natural libido enhancer.
That actually makes a lot of sense biologically too.
The hormone that rises to allow for embryo implantation also increases desire for sexual activity. Because the two are connected, we're more likely to have sex during the times when the chances of pregnancy are highest. A loss of sexual desire can weigh heavily on the most important relationships, and may also be a sign of low progesterone levels.
3. Sleep Disruption
Allopregnenolone is a metabolite (by-product) of pregnenolone that interacts with GABA receptors in the brain. GABA is a calming neurotransmitter, and the ability of this metabolite to interact with GABA sites means that progesterone actually produces a calming effect.
Because less progesterone means less of this calming influence, those who have had decreases often have more difficulty falling or staying asleep.
4. Weight Gain
Low progesterone can make weight management difficult.
The main reason is that progesterone balances out estrogen in the body. Without the balance of progesterone, we often suffer with the effects of Estrogen Dominance, which include fat retention (among other things).
For an in-depth breakdown of Estrogen Dominance, and its effects in the body, check out our Estrogen Dominance Page.
Outside of balancing estrogen, progesterone also helps to keep weight in check by directly promoting the use of fat for energy. So less progesterone means a weakened signal for our bodies to burn fat.
Fluctuating and shifting hormones are well known for impacting our emotional states. Changes in hormone levels are behind the emotional volatility of adolescence as well as PMS, pregnancy, postpartum depression, and a host of other transitional times.
If you've noticed emotional turbulence, and irritability or depression in particular, low progesterone could be a factor.
6. Hot Flashes
A deficiency of sex hormones (progesterone/estrogen) causes our brains to prompt production of these hormones from the ovaries. But with the onset of menopause, the ovaries simply are not able to produce them at the desired levels.
That failure of production causes increased neurological activity in the area of our brains associated with hormone regulation. The increased activity can also effect the nearby vasomotor center of our brains which controls capillary dilation and sweating.
The result? Your air conditioned room randomly turns into the Sahara Desert.
If you have several of these signs, you're probably looking for the reasonable next steps. We have a few ideas on that front too:
1. Test Your Hormones
This list of signs is a general guide, but our bodies are complex. There are other reasons why you could experience each of the things on this list. To confirm your levels, it's always a good idea to get your levels tested.
Click here to check out our Menopause Hormone Test Kit which includes progesterone testing. You can also get hormones tested through your medical care provider in many cases.
2. Try Progesto-Life
So maybe you've confirmed a progesterone deficiency through testing. Or maybe you're in menopause or have PCOS, and know that your levels aren't what they should be. If you're ready to bring your progesterone levels up, we recommend our bio-identical progesterone cream Progesto-Life.
Lee, John R. What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause. New York: Hachette Book Group, 2004. Print