Progesterone Deficiency: What is it and how can I fix it?
Low progesterone is a common diagnosis for women with PMS symptoms and low fertility. It can show up as a short menstrual cycle, meaning less than 26 days, irritability, spotting before your period, acne flare ups, fatigue, low sex drive, and anxiety. All which add up to a whole lot of no fun at all.
A reasonable question to ask in such a case is, “What can I do to boost my progesterone?” While there are some herbs and supplements you can take to support progesterone production, it’s not that simple.
First you need to understand why your progesterone is low and in order to do that we need to look at where progesterone comes from.
The main source of progesterone is the corpus luteum. This is a temporary gland that is formed from the egg follicle (the sac in which your egg develops) in your ovary after ovulation.
In order to have a properly functioning corpus luteum, capable of providing you with adequate progesterone so you can feel and look great in the second half of your cycle, you need to have a good solid ovulation.
Ovulation results from the proper balance and interaction of two main hormones: follicle stimulating hormone and estrogen. Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) is made in your brain in the pituitary gland and must travel through your bloodstream to affect your ovary. Once there, FSH stimulates the follicles in your ovary to start enlarging and your eggs to mature.
The developing egg and follicle begin producing estrogen which sends a message to your brain to slow down on the FSH. FSH levels drop until the follicle and egg reach maturity and estrogen levels peak, then a surge of FSH occurs, along with a surge in luteinizing hormone (LH). This surge causes your mature egg to be released from your ovary and, ta-da!, ovulation has occurred.
If there are problems with any of the hormones in the first half of your cycle - either too high or too low, your ovulation may not be happening optimally. The egg can be released before it is fully mature, when it’s past its prime, or not at all, for example. In any case the formation of the corpus luteum is compromised and your progesterone levels may not reach sufficient levels to do all the wonderful things it’s intended to do - like make you feel awesome.
To throw an added wrench in the works, when you’re under stress, your body will steal the building blocks of progesterone and instead make cortisol, the stress hormone. So even if your pre-ovulation hormones are working okay, you could be limiting your ability to produce progesterone by not getting enough sleep, skipping meals, driving on the freeway, or doing anything else that signals your body that you’re in danger.
As you can see, increasing progesterone is not as simple as adding in an herb or supplement. In most cases you’ll have to address multiple areas to promote proper hormone balance in the beginning of your cycle - getting enough sleep, reducing stress where you can, supporting your body’s functioning with proper nutrition and elimination, and in some cases taking herbs and supplements or getting acupuncture to assist your body in coming back to balance.