A woman’s body undergoes several changes as she gets older. Aside from physical changes, there are physiological changes that may affect her overall well-being. These may be brought about by hormonal changes, which every woman should be aware of. In this article, we will talk about progesterone hormone imbalance, and why it’s important to test for this condition.
Changes in a Woman’s Body
More often than not, we only think of visiting a doctor when we start to feel something that’s not right. Unfortunately, it may be too late to give the medication to completely treat the condition. That’s why it is essential that the first time we encounter something unusual in our bodies, we immediately seek medical attention.
Not all hormonal imbalance issues are abnormal or risky. For instance, it’s fairly common for pregnant women to have a progesterone level 10 times more than a woman who’s not carrying a child in her womb. This increase in progesterone level starts near the end of the first trimester, and continues until the baby is born.
On the other hand, some instances of hormonal imbalance are caused by serious complications. Women may experience hormonal changes that may affect their health and overall well-being if left unchecked. For example, a high progesterone level in either men and women may be caused by certain types of cancer.
Progesterone Level in Women
The normal ranges for progesterone level are shown below. This is merely a guide, and may differ from lab to lab.
Progesterone levels during the menstrual cycle
Days 1-14: Less than 1 nanogram per milliliter (ng/mL) or 0.5-2.3 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L)
Days 15-28: 2-25 ng/mL or 6.4-79.5 nmol/L
Progesterone levels during pregnancy
1st Trimester: 10-44 ng/mL or 32.6-140 nmol/L
2nd Trimester: 19.5-82.5 ng/mL or 62-262 nmol/L
3rd Trimester: 65-290 ng/mL or 206.7-728 nmol/L
Progesterone levels during menopause
Normal: Less than 1.0 ng/mL or less than 2 nmol/L
A woman’s progesterone level may fluctuate between low and high in different periods of her life. In each case, it may be caused by different factors.
Signs and Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalance
Hormonal imbalance can cause complications, and may be determined by the following signs and symptoms:
- Allergy symptoms
- Facial hair growth
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Hair loss
- Inability to manage stress
- Low libido
- Ovarian cancer
- Pre-menopausal bone loss
- Urinary tract infections
- Uterine cancer
- Weight gain
- Wrinkly skin
- Yeast infections
High Progesterone Level
Having a high progesterone level may be caused by the following:
- Adrenal Hyperplasia: This is caused by abnormal functioning of the adrenal glands, which may cause pre-menstrual syndrome.
- Multiple Pregnancies: Progesterone levels rise significantly during pregnancy and can even rise during multiple pregnancies.
- Pre-Menstrual Syndrome: Fluctuation in a woman’s cycle may affect emotional and mental stability.
- Uterine Cancer
Some women with high progesterone level may experience the following symptoms:
- Acne and greasy skin
- Bloating: This may happen during a menstrual period.
- Breast Sensitivity
- Hot flashes
- Lack of Libido: Having less interest in sex may be caused by high progesterone level
- Mood Swings
- Ovarian Cyst: When too much progesterone is produced, it can cause ovarian cyst to grow
- Restless Sleep: Feeling tired even after sleeping for long hours.
- Urinary infections
- Vaginal Dryness
- Weight gain
All of these signs may cause discomfort. Fortunately, there are options in treating such condition.
Low Progesterone Level
Progesterone is important for women during their child-bearing years. Progesterone helps the uterus to thicken in time for receiving a fertilized egg. Implantation may not be possible if there is low progesterone level.
Symptoms of low progesterone level in an unpregnant woman include:
- headaches or migraines
- hot flashes
- irregularity in your menstrual cycle
- low sex drive
- mood changes, including anxiety or depression
Low progesterone level may cause abnormal uterine bleeding. This may indicate that the ovaries are poorly functioning.
Symptoms of low progesterone levels in pregnant women include:
- constant breast tenderness
- frequent low blood sugar
- unrelenting fatigue
- vaginal dryness
A pregnant woman with this condition may indicate toxemia or ectopic pregnancy.
Progesterone and estrogen levels need to be balanced in order for a woman to stay healthy. When estrogen dominates, this may lead to a myriad of symptoms, such as:
- breast tenderness, fibrocystic breasts
- decreased sex drive, mood swings, and depression
- fibroids, endometriosis
- gallbladder problems
- PMS, irregular menstrual cycle, heavy bleeding
- thyroid dysfunction
- weight gain
Different Approaches To Treating Progesterone Imbalance
Taking a progesterone test is essential to determine if the progesterone level is within the normal range. Once the result proves that there is an imbalance, there are several ways on how to treat the condition.
The kind of lifestyle that we live has a tremendous effect on our health. This includes consuming food items that are high in caloric content but do not provide the nutritional needs of our bodies. Not living healthy may lead to various kinds of diseases that affect our overall health.
Women who are obese or overweight may suffer from hormonal imbalance. Women who have experienced being pregnant, have used birth control pills, or are nearing the menopausal stage may experience this.
When too much estrogen takes over, it turns calories into fat, which causes the growth of fatty tissues that usually dominate the abdomen area. This imbalance of hormones can also lead to water retention, which leads to bloating and swelling.
Food products that promote stable estrogen levels are apples, alfalfa, cherries, rice, soy, yams, and wheat. Eating these kinds of food prevents progesterone imbalance.
Of course, lifestyle change is not as easy. But if you give your full commitment, you should see positive results in time.
Some people use herbal medicine in treating progesterone imbalance. The most popular choices are fenugreek, Dong Quai, licorice, unicorn root, and wild yams. Users vouch for their effectiveness in balancing progesterone.
There are two types of herbs that have become popular in treating progesterone imbalance:
- Phytoestrogenic herbs: These plants contain estrogen produced by plants. However, it should be noted that any external addition of hormones may damage the ability of the body to produce the hormone naturally, which can further decrease the hormone level.
- Hormone-regulating supplements: This stimulates hormone production by nourishing endocrine glands, which causes them to produce natural hormones. It is considered as a safer way of treating progesterone imbalance naturally.
Hormone replacement therapy
Hormone replacement therapy has recently evolved as one of the options in treating hormonal imbalance. However, there is a risk of serious and fatal side effects, including the development of certain types of cancer.
Progesterone testing can determine if your progesterone level is low. It may involve a simple blood test or saliva test that requires minimal to nil preparation.
The test will be able to determine the following:
- Assess the risk of miscarriage
- Help determine whether ovulation is occurring
- Help diagnose problems with the adrenal glands and some types of cancer
- Help find the cause of infertility
- Monitor the function of the ovaries and placenta during pregnancy
- Monitor the success of medicines for infertility or the effect of treatment with progesterone
On the flip side, undergoing a progesterone test isn’t advisable in the following situations:
- Being exposed to a test (such as a thyroid scan or bone scan) that used a radioactive substance (tracer) within 1 week before the progesterone test.
- Testing for progesterone levels during the day (because they normally fluctuate during this time of day)
- Using hormone correction drugs, including those containing estrogen or progesterone (such as birth control pills)
- Using medicines, such as ampicillin and clomiphene
- Experiencing menstruation at the supposed moment of testing
Hormone treatment may be needed for women who plan to conceive a child. Increasing progesterone may help thicken the uterine lining, and significantly improve the chances of having a healthy pregnancy to full term.
Likewise, an irregular menstrual period may be corrected through hormone treatment.
Treatment options for low progesterone levels include:
- creams and gels, which can be used topically or, in women, vaginally
- oral medications, like Provera
- suppositories, which are commonly used when treating low progesterone that is causing fertility problems
- vaginal rings, which offer slower releases of hormones than oral medications
To accurately replicate a hormonal environment, it is necessary to get the hormones directly into the blood. Some hormone creams and gels can be rubbed once or twice daily into the mucous membrane. However, this method may saturate fat tissue when applied to the skin.
Taking hormone therapy relieves the woman from unfavorable symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness. It also improves the mental state of mind and may reduce the risk of osteoporosis and diabetes.
Meanwhile, here are natural ways to improve low progesterone level:
- Control stress levels: As cortisol is released instead of progesterone in high periods of stress, it reduces the progesterone level.
- Eat more foods rich in zinc, like shellfish
- Increase intake of vitamins B and C: These are necessary for maintaining progesterone levels.
It is equally important to maintain progesterone level at an optimum level to women who have had hysterectomies. Inappropriate level of progesterone may increase the risk of having a heart disease, brain, and bone disease.
More Ways To Address Hormonal Imbalance
If you are diagnosed with hormonal imbalance, here are more ways to help address your condition.
- Make exercise a part of your daily routine. Keeping yourself fit enables your body to function normally.
- Eat the right kind of food. Refrain from eating junk foods and replace them with fruits and vegetables.
- Take the following nutrients to increase your progesterone levels: zinc, magnesium, vitamin B-6, and vitamin C.
- Avoid getting stressed. Take as much rest as you can.
- Avoid smoking.
Steps on How to Be Healthier
As we grow older, we need to develop a kind of lifestyle that can help us live a life that is free from any kind of sickness or disease. Here are some effective techniques to achieve the healthy body that you’ve always wanted:
- Understand your body: Knowing how your body works will help you cope with hormonal fluctuations.
- Identify any disorder: Be able to detect symptoms of hormonal imbalance before it becomes worse.
- Change the way you live your life: There is a need to make some lifestyle change in order to prevent, manage and relieve symptoms.
Once hormonal balance has been restored, great benefits will soon follow. These include better sleep, increased energy, improved mood, enhanced mental function, improved libido, and better weight management.