If you are considering starting a family, chances are you’ve been looking into what your body needs for fertility. You may even take an at home fertility test. What you might not realize is just how important progesterone is to the body, especially for reproduction and pregnancy.
What Is Progesterone?
Progesterone is a sex hormone present in people assigned female at birth. It is mainly produced by the corpus luteum in the ovaries and is an important part of the reproductive system. It helps to prepare the uterus to receive a fertilized egg. Once the egg implants, progesterone protects the pregnancy by helping to keep the uterine lining safe. While pregnant, the placenta also produces progesterone. In addition to pregnancy functions, progesterone is also responsible for regulating the menstruation cycle, supporting lactation, supporting thyroid function, and improving mood.
What Should Progesterone Levels Be?
Progesterone levels fluctuate depending on age, pregnancy, and where you are in your menstrual cycle. During the first half of your cycle, levels are low at less than 2 ng/mL. Levels rise during ovulation and peak about a week afterward. During this time, it may be around 20 ng/mL. If you don’t conceive during ovulation, levels will drop again. If you do conceive, progesterone levels may be as high as 90 ng/mL for the first trimester and as high as 300 ng/mL by the end of the pregnancy.
Some people have progesterone levels that are too low or too high. Low progesterone may be a result of obesity, poor diet, insulin resistance, lack of exercise, or high stress levels. Although not as common, some people have progesterone levels that are too high. This may be due to congenital adrenal hyperplasia, adrenal cancer, or ovarian cancer.
How Can Progesterone Levels Impact Fertility?
Low progesterone levels can make it hard to get pregnant or to stay pregnant. This is because progesterone is required to create the thick, healthy lining of the uterus that protects the fetus throughout pregnancy. Low progesterone can lead to ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, or preterm labor.
What Are the Treatments for Low Progesterone?
There are a number of treatments for low progesterone. One of the most popular treatments is a cream that the body absorbs into the bloodstream. Progesterone pills are another common treatment provided by doctors. Additionally, some foods may help the body stimulate production. These foods include beans, cabbage, kale, pumpkin, and whole grains, among others. Some foods that may lower estrogen, thereby increasing the ratio of it to progesterone, include bananas, shellfish, and walnuts.
There are other ways to naturally increase progesterone as well, including maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding overexercise, and reducing stress. You can use a testing kit like the Proov PDG test to determine how much progesterone is in your body and how much you need to increase it.
While an at home progesterone test is a good place to start when trying to become pregnant, keep in mind that it’s good to speak to your doctor about your intentions as well. This way, you are trying to conceive with as much information as possible about your overall health.