Progesterone as a Supplement: What To Know

You may see benefits from progesterone if you're experiencing symptoms of menopause or some uterine-related issues.

Progesterone is a hormone made by the body that is essential for stabilizing the uterine (or endometrial) lining, regulating your menstrual cycle, and promoting healthy embryo development. Though it is a naturally occurring hormone, it can also be produced as a supplement.

Christine Greves, MD, an OB-GYN at the center for obstetrics and gynecology at Orlando Health in Florida, told Health that research on progesterone is still emerging, making it a controversial topic. The important thing to understand, though, is that taking progesterone supplements will not necessarily help you get pregnant or prevent miscarriage. "It all depends on a person's individual history," Dr. Greves said.

Here's what you need to know about using progesterone as a supplement.

How Is Progesterone Used?

Per MedlinePlus, progesterone falls into the medicine category of progestins. According to the National Library of Medicine (NLM), progestins (or progestogens) are synthetic versions of progesterone used medicinally—meaning that they act similarly to the way that natural progesterone does in the body.

MedlinePlus also indicated that progesterone is typically included in hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for individuals in postmenopause who have not had a hysterectomy, which is a surgery where the uterus is removed. HRT helps alleviate menopausal symptoms as well as risk reduction for specific conditions.

Additionally, taking progesterone counteracts high levels of estrogen for the purposes of starting menstruation (in individuals who are having irregular periods) and reducing uterine cancer risk, says MedlinePlus.

Conditions That May Benefit From Progesterone Use

Progesterone supplements have long been recommended for people struggling with female infertility, but many healthcare providers still disagree on their effectiveness. However, it is possible that they can be beneficial for other conditions.

Endometrial Cancer

The American Cancer Society stated that progesterone or progestins are the primary hormone treatment for endometrial cancer. Progesterone has been shown to decrease the risk of endometrial cancer for menopausal people who are taking estrogen.

Taking estrogen to treat symptoms of menopause—known as menopausal hormone therapy—can help reduce hot flashes, improve vaginal dryness, and prevent weakening of the bones (osteoporosis). But using estrogen alone without progesterone can also lead to endometrial cancer. Progesterone supplements must be given with estrogen (which is called combination hormone therapy) to reduce that risk, Dr. Greves said.

Sleeping Issues During Menopause

According to the Sleep Foundation, people in menopause tend to experience sleep issues related to insomnia, sleep-disordered breathing (like sleep apnea), and other sleep-related disorders. Progesterone may also help people going through menopause if they're having difficulty sleeping, Dr. Greves said.

Researchers of an April 2018 Climateric review noted that individuals in menopause experienced better deep sleep after taking 300 mg of progesterone on a nightly basis.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Dr. Greves said another of progesterone's benefits is that it may help people with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This is a condition that arises from reproductive hormone imbalances, per the Office on Women's Health.

During a person's menstrual cycle, the body typically produces progesterone after ovulation. However, individuals with PCOS have higher levels of androgens, which are responsible for male trait development but can also keep ovulation from occurring, the Office on Women's Health says.

Because of the relationship between these hormones, many people with PCOS experience irregular periods. This includes having fewer periods, more frequent periods, missed periods, or no periods at all according to the Office on Women's Health. Thus, taking progesterone supplements can help an individual regulate their cycle.

Preterm Birth

A July 2020 study published in the International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics noted that progestogens have often been recommended for individuals who are at risk of having a preterm birth. Progesterone may help prevent preterm birth in people who have previously had a baby prematurely or who have a short cervix, which is a risk factor for preterm birth.

Data has shown that for people in either of those categories who are carrying just one baby, progesterone can reduce the risk of delivering early by about one-third, Dr. Greves said.

Considerations of Taking Progesterone

Before taking progesterone supplements, the most important thing is to speak to a healthcare professional, especially if you're pregnant. They'll want to know about your medical history and if you're allergic to any medications as well as the medications or herbal products you are taking to minimize the risk of drug interactions or further health complications.

Also, according to MedlinePlus, taking progesterone can have many side effects such as dizziness or lightheadedness, body pain, vaginal discharge, mood changes, and digestive issues. If these issues are persistent or severe, or if you have any abnormal symptoms, you'll want to seek medical attention.

Ultimately, progesterone may or may not work for you, but only a healthcare provider can say whether it's worth trying.

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