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Causes of low progesterone
Apart from the vital role progesterone plays towards fertility, it is also beneficial for other bodily functions, including brain, bones, nerves, skin, and heart health.

Progesterone is a female hormone produced by the ovaries during the period of ovulation. However, certain amounts are also produced by the adrenal glands. Progesterone is also present in males; however, it is categorized as a 'female' hormone because of its absolute role in the transitional phases in a female's life―right from puberty, to becoming a mother, to coping with the bothersome symptoms of menopause.

The human body has always amused me! Its natural ways of handling the most complex changes―especially the birth of a new life―has always left me awestruck! Speaking of birth, progesterone makes it possible for the fertilized egg to develop and grow, giving it the very initial and essential prenatal care, naturally. The most important role of the progesterone hormone is to counter the effects of estrogen and help provide an environment for a successful and healthy pregnancy. Also, it is progesterone that enables a woman to experience regular menstrual cycles, the irregularity being accredited to low levels of progesterone.

Causes of Low Progesterone

A woman's body goes through a series of hormonal changes every month―during ovulation and menstrual periods. It is normal for the progesterone levels to rise after ovulation to ensure favorable conditions for the implantation of the embryo. If fertilization doesn't occur, the progesterone levels drop, following menstruation. In this case, the drop in the progesterone levels is normal; however, there are some instances where low progesterone levels may occur. These are:

Problems in Ovulation: Progesterone is released by the ovaries during the later half of the menstrual cycle, i.e, after ovulation. If there are problems in the process of ovulation, the progesterone levels may be low.

Possibility of Miscarriage: A high amount of progesterone is released by the placenta during pregnancy. If there is a significant drop in the progesterone levels during the first few weeks of pregnancy, then it may lead to a miscarriage.

Estrogen Dominance: In case of women who are of childbearing age, it may so happen that the amount of estrogen may increase abnormally and the progesterone levels may decrease leading to an irregularity or absence of menstruation. This may also cause difficulty in conceiving. Hormone replacement therapy after menopause also includes estrogen and progesterone. High levels of estrogen may cause the lining of the uterus to thicken abnormally, increasing the chances of uterine cancer. Therefore, progesterone should be included to reduce the thickening and decreasing the chances of uterine cancer.

Certain Medications: Certain medications may suppress the levels of progesterone in the body. If you experience the symptoms of low progesterone―which are listed in the following section―then consult with your healthcare specialist and tell him/her about the medications you consume.

Other Causes: Some experts believe that causes like mental stress, lack of physical exercises, lack of nutritious diet, etc., may cause low levels of progesterone.

Symptoms of Low Progesterone

The previous sections clearly define the importance of progesterone, especially among females. Low levels may bring about various health problems. There are far too many symptoms of low progesterone to count. The following are some of the most prominent symptoms.

☞ Irregular menstruation in women of childbearing age
☞ Problems in conceiving
☞ Miscarriages
☞ Weight gain
☞ Mood swings
☞ Infertility
☞ Sexual dysfunction
☞ Insomnia
☞ Fluid retention
☞ Depression
☞ Anxiety
☞ Bloating
☞ Headaches
☞ Fibrocystic breasts

Tests for Diagnosis

To detect low progesterone in the body, the following 3 methods can be used:

☞ By charting the fertility cycle.
☞ A blood test after ovulation has taken place.
☞ A test during the mid-luteal phase (approximately the 20th to 24th day of the menstrual cycle, counting the first day of the menstrual cycle as day 1).

When to Get Tested for Low Progesterone?

You may be advised to have your progesterone level measured for the following conditions:
☞ Progesterone level is tested to monitor the placenta and fetal health during a high risk pregnancy.
☞ To detect ectopic pregnancy or threatened miscarriages.
☞ It is used to determine if ovulation has occurred after a drug therapy has been carried out to detect pregnancy.
☞ To measure the effectiveness of progesterone injections given to a woman to maintain her pregnancy.
☞ These levels are used to understand why a woman who is not pregnant is experiencing abnormal uterine bleeding.
☞ To determine why a woman is not able to conceive. These tests help understand if the woman is ovulating normally or not.

Treatment

The low levels of progesterone can be stabilized by hormone replacement therapy. This therapy is used for women who have passed the phase of menopause. Progesterone is available in the form of capsules, creams, injections, and vaginal suppositories. Your doctor will recommend a specific dosage depending on your individual case. You will be asked to take the medication in a rotating schedule, wherein, you will have to consume the medication for a few days, stop for a few days, and then continue again. You may experience certain side effects including dizziness and fatigue. It is advisable to inform your doctor about any symptoms you experience while on treatment.

Please ensure that you do not take progesterone without a doctor's consultation as an overdose/less dosage may cause serious complications. Follow the doctor's instructions strictly. Inform him/her about all the allergies you have. If you are already taking any medication, inform about that, as well.

Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as a replacement for expert medical advice.