Progesterone is one of the main female hormones that plays an important role in ovulation and menstruation. Functions of progesterone during pregnancy are described in this article. Read on to know why doctors sometimes recommend progesterone support during early pregnancy….
Pregnancy is a very important phase in the life of a woman. Hormone imbalance can significantly affect the fertility of a woman. Adrenal glands in women release a small amount of progesterone which enhances the production of other important hormones like estrogen, cortisol and testosterone.
The corpus luteum in the ovaries produces progesterone in large amounts. The hormone plays an important role in ovulation, menstruation, conception and healthy pregnancy. Why is it said that progesterone is essential for the safety of the fetus? Find answer to this question in the following section.
Importance of Progesterone During Pregnancy
The ‘granulosa cells’ from the ovaries release the hormone progesterone. The corpus luteum begins to release the hormone after ovulation, through the granulosa cells. Release of this hormone enhances the growth of blood vessels that provide blood to the lining of the uterus (endometrium). This ensures more blood supply to the uterus.
Thus progesterone helps the body prepare for pregnancy. It stimulates the function of the small glands in the uterine lining. These glands release a fluid that provides nourishment to the sperms and the embryo. If the woman does not succeed in conceiving, progesterone is no more produced and the body starts preparing for menstruation.
When the female egg is fertilized by the sperms, it attaches itself to the wall of the uterus. This process is called implantation. The placenta then releases the hormone b-HCG. If b-HCG is released, corpus luteum continues the production of progesterone (and estrogen). This prevents menstruation and the body starts preparing for the pregnancy.
Corpus luteum continues to produce progesterone for the first 8-9 weeks. During this period, development of placenta takes place. It then restricts the flow of b-HCG hormone. As a result, corpus luteum gradually stops producing progesterone and placenta itself starts releasing sufficient amount of progesterone.
With the help of progesterone only, the body succeeds in maintaining the required body temperature during ovulation. Thickening of the endometrium, vaginal epithelium and cervical mucus to protect the fetus from infections is possible only in the presence of this hormone. Thus, progesterone prevents a miscarriage by preparing a safe place for the fetus. Low progesterone levels in early pregnancy can therefore lead to a miscarriage.
During pregnancy, progesterone helps enhance the functions of the placenta. It does not allow unwanted cells to grow near the womb and thus, rules out the possibility of any kind of damage to the placenta and fetus. It plays an important role in the growth of the breast tissue and helps maintain the thickness of the endometrium throughout the pregnancy. It prevents abnormal or spontaneous movements of the uterus or untimely contraction of the uterus.
Progesterone also helps the body to prepare for milk production and it prevents lactation until birth with the help of estrogen. When the levels of this hormone drop down before childbirth, glands in breasts start releasing milk. When placenta stops producing progesterone at the end of the pregnancy, the woman experiences onset of labor. Severe uterine contractions facilitate childbirth.
Spotting followed by cramping in early pregnancy indicates low progesterone levels. The pregnant woman may also experience pain in breasts, vaginal dryness, backache, weakness, depression due to low levels of this hormone. After examining these symptoms, the doctor may advise her to take progesterone supplement.
Intake of natural progesterone can help raise the levels of this hormone. Although over-the-counter progesterone products are available in the market, women should never opt for these products without consulting the doctor. Wrong dosage can lead to abnormally high progesterone levels and can result in serious side effects.
If you are planning for pregnancy, then you should get examined by a doctor before conception, to avoid complications during pregnancy. Now that you know what role the hormone progesterone plays during pregnancy, you should consult the doctor to know how to raise progesterone levels naturally. Leading a stress-free lifestyle is essential for hormone balance in your body.
Excessive smoking, alcohol abuse, sedentary lifestyle, lack of exercise, wrong diet, bad eating/sleeping habits, excessive consumption of drugs and medications can lead to low progesterone levels. With certain changes in lifestyle and the diet, you can enjoy a safe and healthy pregnancy.