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Progesterone

Progesterone

Overview Information

Progesterone is a hormone that occurs naturally in the body. It can also be made in a laboratory.

"Progestin" is a general term for a substance that causes some or all of the biologic effects of progesterone. The term "progestin" is sometimes used to refer to the progesterone made in the laboratory that is in oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy. However, all progesterone and progestin products are made in the laboratory. The term "natural progesterone" is really a misnomer. "Natural progesterones," including the prescription products Crinone and Prometrium, are made from a chemical called diosgenin that is isolated from wild yam or soy. In the laboratory, this constituent is converted to pregnenolone and then to progesterone.

How does it work?

Progesterone is a hormone released by the ovaries. Changing progesterone levels can contribute to abnormal menstrual periods and menopausal symptoms. Progesterone is also necessary for implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterus and for maintaining pregnancy.

Lab-made progesterone is used to imitate the functions of the progesterone released by the ovaries.

What happens if I have too much progesterone?

There are no known serious medical consequences of having too much progesterone. Levels of progesterone do increase naturally in pregnancy as mentioned above.

High levels of progesterone are associated with the condition congenital adrenal hyperplasia. However, the high progesterone levels are a consequence of and not a cause of this condition. Also, high levels of progesterone are associated with an increased risk for developing breast cancer.

Progesterone, either alone or in combination with oestrogen, is taken by women as an oral contraceptive ('the pill'). 'The pill' works by preventing ovulation, making it nearly 100% effective in preventing pregnancy.

Progesterone is used in hormone replacement therapy to relieve symptoms of the menopause in women. There are many recognised pros and cons to hormone replacement therapy – see the article on menopause for more information.

Progesterone: The Pregnancy Hormone

Progesterone is sometimes called the "pregnancy hormone" because of the role it plays in getting pregnant and maintaining a pregnancy. Progesterone gets the uterus ready to accept and maintain a fertilized egg.

When a woman has her menstrual period, her progesterone level is usually low during the first few days.

But once she ovulates, her progesterone level goes up for about five days, then comes back down.

Side Effects & Safety

The progesterone prescription products that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are LIKELY SAFE for most people when used by mouth, applied to the skin, applied into vagina, or injected into the muscle with the advice and care of a healthcare professional. However, progesterone can cause many side effects including stomach upset, changes in appetite, weight gain, fluid retention and swelling (edema), fatigue, acne, drowsiness or insomnia, allergic skin rashes, hives, fever, headache, depression, breast discomfort or enlargement, premenstrual syndrome (PMS)-like symptoms, altered menstrual cycles, irregular bleeding, and other side effects.

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