Various hormones like estrogen and progesterone play an important role in successful pregnancies. Abnormal fluctuations in the levels of these hormones can lead to infertility or miscarriage. Progesterone is released by the adrenal glands and ovaries. During pregnancy, the placenta also releases this hormone. Levels of this hormone keep on changing during a menstrual cycle and pregnancy. Levels greater than 1 to 1.5 ng/ml are normal levels for days 1-14 of a menstrual cycle. Women who have regular periods, normally ovulate on the 14th day. The progesterone levels after ovulation can be 2 to 28 ng/ml for days 15-28 during the cycle. Why the levels rise after ovulation? Here is the answer.
Ovulation and Progesterone Levels
As explained above, a normal woman may have progesterone levels between 1-28 during a menstrual cycle. By charting the basal body temperature during a menstrual cycle, a woman can know when the ovulation has occurred. The ovarian follicle releases the egg (referred to as corpus luteum), which releases progesterone. As a result, the levels of this hormone rise after ovulation, which makes the uterus thick and safe for the embryo. Thus, the body starts preparing for the healthy growth of an embryo.
The hormone fetches the blood flow towards the uterus so that the embryo gets proper and sufficient nutrients. Ovulation is an important stage in pregnancy as the female egg is available for fertilization only for 24 hours. If the woman succeeds in conceiving within these 24 hours, then several hormonal changes take place in her body to prepare a safe environment for the fetus. Low levels of progesterone can lead to infertility or miscarriage.
A level over 5 ng/ml of progesterone actually means that ovulation has occurred; however, to be on the safer side, doctors consider a level over 10 ng/ml on a natural cycle as a sign of ovulation. Also, they consider a level over 15 on a medicated cycle as a symptom of ovulation. The levels of progesterone post ovulation are monitored to check the effect of infertility treatment.
The phase before ovulation is called the 'follicular phase', while the phase after ovulation is called the 'luteal phase'. The length of the two phases is not equal. Measuring the progesterone levels help determine the length of the luteal phase, and if it is shorter than normal, then there can be difficulty in getting pregnant. Moreover, luteal phase shorter than ten days shows that the woman has insufficient progesterone. When a woman does not conceive after ovulation, the progesterone levels start falling down. Low progesterone levels trigger menstruation, and the follicular phase starts again. In case of ectopic pregnancy, low levels of this hormone can be noticed from the beginning.
Progesterone Levels During Pregnancy
During pregnancy, the progesterone levels keep on rising as the placenta also starts producing it from the 10th week. This hormone prevents the onset of uterine contractions. During the first trimester, the levels of this hormone may lie between 9 to 47 ng/ml. In the second trimester, the levels may further rise and can be anywhere between 17 to 146 ng/ml. In the last trimester, the levels can be between 55 to 200 ng/ml, till childbirth.
Remember, all the aforementioned numbers should be considered as reference numbers or just a guideline. The increase in the progesterone levels after ovulation can vary from woman to woman, depending upon several factors like her age, overall health, stress levels, etc. However, the pattern of change in these levels should be like the one described above.
Too much estrogen, insulin resistance, lack of exercise, excessive stress, poor diet, excessive consumption of certain medications, sugar, harmful drugs, caffeine, alcohol, excessive smoking can cause deficiency of this hormone. Women should stay away from harmful substances, and concentrate on their diet and perform regular exercises if they want to lead a healthy and happy life.
Disclaimer: This HerHaleness article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.