To understand the reason for the controversy surrounding bioidentical progesterone, let's first understand what it is. The prescription and use of this product comes under the wider umbrella of bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, which deals with the use of hormones that are molecularly identical to the hormones produced within the body. Hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, was widely used as a treatment for pre-menopausal and post-menopausal symptoms in women, by synthetically supplementing the hormones that are no longer made by the body as a result of the onset of menopause.
The two main female hormones - estrogen and progesterone, are routinely produced in the body during the years preceding menopause. Both these hormones perform a number of functions within the body apart from the reproductive and menstrual processes that they are typically associated with. "Natural" progesterone supplements, otherwise known as bioidentical progesterone, is currently a hotly debated subject in relation to the medical community's division on the benefits of their use. The following are some details to provide clarification why this controversy exists, and its relation with women's health.
The primary goals of traditional hormone replacement therapy (HRT) are to provide relief from the symptoms of menopause and prevent osteoporosis. However, after extensive clinical trials, it was understood that there are significant risks associated with HRT, including increased health hazards that outweighed its benefits. The so-called 'natural' supplements are currently available in a number of forms, such as pills, tablets, topical ointments, and also as cream; they are also available compounded by a pharmacist, though the risks associated with compounded prescriptions is, in certain opinions, exponentially higher.
Most health care professionals who do advise taking these supplements, suggest you do so in the form of pills or tablets, since there is a prevailing belief that absorption into the body through the skin can neither be ensured nor monitored. There have been varied reviews from users of this drug, some of whom claim the following benefits:
- Increased sex drive
- Healthier weight
- Better state of mind (lowered mood swings)
- Better skin and hair
- Lowered breast tenderness
The dosage of this drug is suggested between 10-40mg daily, either once or twice a day, for anything between 15-25 days of the month. Current trends suggest that this is not by any means a drug meant for prolonged usage because of associated side effects, irrespective of the benefits that might be on offer. An added point of concern is that there are a number of manufacturers that sell this drug over the internet or in drugstores where they can be procured without a prescription, but it's best to steer clear of these since they are not approved by the FDA. In addition, there are mixed opinions about compounded prescriptions, since they may also vary greatly in potency.
There are a number of side effects associated with the use of this progesterone, which further strengthen the controversy surrounding its prescription, sale, and usage. These are primarily:
- Breast tenderness
- Weight gain around thighs, buttocks, and hips
- Facial hair growth
There is widespread public opinion that the only hormones that are truly natural, are the ones your body makes. Bioidentical progesterone is made from yam and soybeans, which are synthesized. However, there are a number of preparations sold under the guise of this product, which have yet to prove their efficiency. Essentially, there is no conclusive evidence that supports the prescription of this supplement. Till such time that experts suggest that the benefits of its usage outweigh the possible side effects, or its proficiency as a drug has been proved, it's best to steer clear of using any such pills and potions.
Disclaimer: This HerHaleness article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.