Progesterone is a key progestogen hormone that plays a vital role in female physiology. Apart from being the chemical caretaker and maintainer of pregnancy, progesterone also plays vital roles in the female menstrual cycle and in the formation, growth and development of an embryo inside the uterus. Progesterone levels vary in different stages of the menstrual cycle.
Prior to ovulation, progesterone levels are comparatively lower but there is a significant spike in this level as ovulation is completed. This spike takes place as an ovum is released when a mature ovarian follicle ruptures and this ovum travels via the fallopian tubes and reaches the uterus where it waits, ready to be fertilized by sperm. In case of unprotected intercourse taking place during this fertile period, the fertilized ovum gets implanted to the uterine wall, which has, all this time, been readying itself for this occasion. This preparation takes place in the form of thickening of the uterine wall and formation of a blood rich lining on the inner surface where the fertilized egg implants itself.
Now, during the latter stage of the menstrual cycle post the release of the ovum by an ovary, the ovarian follicle that has released the ovum forms into a temporary endocrine structure, the corpus luteum, which produces large amounts of progesterone apart from other hormones. Therefore, apart from gestation, the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle is when progesterone levels in the female body are the highest.
Now, a deficiency in progesterone causing its levels to be continuously below normal ranges (keeping in mind the normal periodic variations) is detrimental to the health of women, especially those who are in their reproductive prime (i.e., between pubescence and menopause). In order to correct this deficiency, various different types of progesterone supplements can be availed of. The following segment discusses the most popular and conventional choices in progesterone supplementation.
What are the Different Varieties of Progesterone Supplements?
As discussed above, the chief function of progesterone is to make the body ready for pregnancy and maintain it till the end of its term. However, judging by the plethora of symptoms that a typical progesterone deficiency brings along, one is compelled to admit that progesterone has a larger role to play in the female physiology than just being a caretaker of pregnancy. Right from the physically obvious symptoms such as osteoporosis, rapid weight gain, fibroids and spike in cholesterol levels to the subtler symptoms such as mood swings, depression, insomnia, anxiety and irritability, the ill-effects of progesterone deficiency can make life a bundle of misery for women. Following are some practical alternatives for restoring normal progesterone levels to get relief from the aforementioned symptoms.
Progesterone Creams and Gels
Meant for vaginal applications, these creams and gel preparations contain progesterone hormone and they usually come along with a specialized applicator that is used to push the preparation towards the uterine opening. These preparations can be directly applied close to the uterus and, hence, the action is faster and better. Also, since the hormone supplementation does not follow any other physiological route such as the bloodstream or other receptor pathways, side effects are minimal. These preparations are mostly recommended for women who opt for IVF or IUI procedures.
Cream and gel supplements of progesterone for general cases of deficiency are also available and they are usually meant for topical application along areas where the skin's absorbent ability is maximum. The inner thighs, wrists, palms, neck, breasts, insides of the arms, face, etc. You see, progesterone is highly fat soluble and is easily absorbed by the skin from where it goes on to the subcutaneous tissues to be finally absorbed by the tiny blood capillaries that run right below the dermis.
This type of progesterone supplement comes in the form of a traditional insertable suppository in which the supplement hormone is suspended inside a natural wax, cocoa butter being the most preferred alternative. These progesterone suppositories are meant to directly target the uterus by depositing the supplemental progesterone as close to it as possible. The suppository is inserted inside the vagina for this purpose. This is another highly preferred supplementation choices as the direct introduction of the hormone to the uterus prevents the occurrence of a lot of undesirable side effects that oral supplements or supplements that enter the bloodstream produce.
These are oral supplements that are prescribed for consumption to correct progesterone deficiencies. As is the case with most oral hormone supplements, taking progesterone pills can expose you to a variety of unpleasant side effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, back pain, breast tenderness, puffiness in hands and feet, mood swings, irritability, hot flashes, bowel problems, digestion issues, etc. As a result, these pills are usually prescribed for administration for a limited period of time and are ideal for short-term hormone therapies.
Progesterone oil preparations are widely available for use as intramuscular injections in women undergoing IVF, IUI, hormone replacement therapy or simply seeking treatment for progesterone deficiency. Apart from the physical discomfort of injecting the supplement, discoloration and swelling at the site of injection, acne, drowsiness, disrupted sleep rhythm and nausea are the common side effects of this form of progesterone supplementation.
Those were the most common alternatives when it comes to administering progesterone supplements. While the gynecologist or relevant medical practitioner decides what form of supplementation is best for you depending upon various physical and physiological factors (reactions, allergies, previous hormonal treatment history, etc.), the alternatives that enable direct application of progesterone to the uterus are the most preferred ones owing to their lower side-effect potential as compared to those that are metabolized by the body such as the oral supplements, injections and preparations meant for non-vaginal application.