Progesterone is a very important female reproductive hormone. Along with estrogen, it regulates the menstrual cycle in women. Progesterone is also required for a healthy pregnancy. Progesterone deficiency often leads to many fertility problems in women. Such women find it difficult to get pregnant, and even if they do, they may experience early miscarriages. Such women can indeed benefit from progesterone support. Let us know more about the role of progesterone in female reproductive system.
Role of Progesterone in Pregnancy
The first phase of menstrual cycle, called follicular phase is dominated by estrogen. A mature ovum is released on the ovulation day, after which estrogen levels start dropping and progesterone levels begin to surge. If you are in a habit of charting your basal body temperature, then you may notice a surge of 0.4 degrees after ovulation. In the luteal phase (post ovulatory phase), the progesterone signals the uterus to thicken the endometrium or uterine lining. The blood and tissue enriched uterine lining offers the most favorable condition for the embryo to implant. In the absence of fertilization, the uterine lining is shed during menstrual flow and the body begins to prepare for the next cycle. However, when the embryo successfully implants in the uterus, the progesterone levels remain elevated until the 12th week of pregnancy. After that, placenta takes over the function of progesterone.
Many women who face fertility problem do not produce sufficient progesterone on their own. They may wrongly assume that either they are not ovulating or failing to conceive for some reason or other. However, one must understand that, conception indeed occurs in this case. However, as progesterone levels are not enough to enrich the uterine lining, the fertilized embryo cannot implant itself in the uterus. As a result, it is washed away in menstrual cycle. This is an incidence of a very early miscarriage. As the embryo could not implant in the uterus, it cannot secrete hCG hormone, which is a primary detector of pregnancy. As a result, a woman will never know that she conceived but could not produce a viable embryo.
Progesterone Support in Pregnancy
Progesterone support in early pregnancy can help avoid this condition. If you have a history of infertility or miscarriages, your doctor will most likely test your progesterone levels. If these levels are found to be below normal, he may decide to put you on progesterone support. Women who are already pregnant may have to go for early scan to detect if their bodies produce enough progesterone to sustain pregnancy. If progesterone levels do not rise as expected after fourth week, then your doctor may decide to put you on support. Progesterone treatment in pregnancy is usually continued until the 12th week of gestation. If you have a normally functioning placenta, then your doctor may discontinue your progesterone support. In some cases, progesterone support may be required even after 12 weeks.
Progesterone supplements in pregnancy can come in various forms such as topical creams, shots and suppositories. Creams are to be applied on abdominal area during specific times, whereas shots are to be taken on regular basis depending upon your individual progesterone production. Progesterone supplements are also available in the form of vaginal suppositories, which directly get absorbed in the cervix. Your doctor can recommend any of these supports by evaluating your condition. Progesterone shots can be given by a medical practitioner.
Progesterone used for these supplements is mostly naturally derived. However, synthetic progesterone supplements are also available. Although, they are inexpensive, they may involve a certain side effects. In any case, progesterone supplements must be taken under the supervision of a doctor.