Infertility affects around roughly 1 in 6 adults worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Of these, a huge chunk are women who may be going through hormonal imbalances. A healthy and successful pregnancy requires a proper balance of reproductive hormones, and progesterone is one of the most essential hormones at play. So, if you have plans to start a family and have a healthy baby, here’s how to increase progesterone levels in your body.
What is progesterone?
Progesterone is a female steroid hormone which is produced primarily in the ovaries after ovulation during the menstrual cycle and in smaller amounts by the adrenal glands, explains Dr Priyanka Chauhan Garg, Consultant – Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Dehradun. Its name, “pro-gestational”, literally means “for gestation” or pregnancy, underlining its importance in supporting pregnancy and maintaining a healthy reproductive system.
Low progesterone levels affect a woman’s health
Progesterone is crucial for various reproductive processes in women. So, low progesterone levels can lead to many reproductive issues:
1. Irregular menstrual cycles
Without adequate progesterone, women may have missed or delayed periods, says the expert.
2. Heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding
Progesterone helps to regulate the menstrual flow. In its absence, the uterine lining can become thicker, leading to heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding.
3. Difficulty in conceiving
Insufficient progesterone can result in a thin or unstable uterine lining, making it difficult for a fertilised egg to implant successfully. This can contribute to infertility issues and recurrent failed attempts at conception.
4. Recurrent miscarriages
In early pregnancy, if progesterone levels are inadequate, the uterine lining may not be conducive to the implantation and growth of the embryo which may lead to recurrent miscarriages.
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5. Premenstrual syndrome symptoms
Mood swings, irritability and breast tenderness are often more pronounced in women with insufficient progesterone, making the premenstrual phase significantly challenging for affected women.
What causes low progesterone levels?
Anovulation or the lack of regular ovulation is a leading cause of low progesterone levels. Normally, ovulation triggers the release of progesterone. When ovulation does not occur, progesterone production is significantly reduced, leading to hormonal imbalances, notes Dr Garg. Here are some other common causes:
1. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is quite a common hormonal condition among women who are in the reproductive phase. Women with PCOS often have higher levels of androgens (male hormones) and may experience irregular or absent ovulation leading to low progesterone levels.
Be it emotional or physical, chronic stress can trigger the release of cortisol. Elevated cortisol levels can suppress progesterone production, leading to hormonal imbalance.
3. Excessive exercise
Intense and prolonged physical activity, especially in fitness enthusiasts can lead to a condition known as hypothalamic amenorrhea, where menstruation ceases due to hormonal imbalances, including low progesterone levels.
4. Significant weight loss or gain
Adipose tissue (fat cells) plays a role in hormone metabolism. Drastic weight loss or gain can disrupt this balance, affecting the production of progesterone.
5. Thyroid disorders
Thyroid hormones influence the production and regulation of reproductive hormones, including progesterone. Disorders like hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) or hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) can disturb this balance, potentially leading to low progesterone levels.
How to increase progesterone levels naturally
There are a few things you can do to boost progesterone levels.
1. Reduce stress
Stress management techniques such as yoga, meditation, and relaxation exercises can help balance cortisol levels, indirectly supporting progesterone production, says the expert.
2. Balanced diet
A well-balanced diet ensures the body has the necessary nutrients for hormone production. Include fruits, whole grains, vegetables, healthy fats and lean proteins in your diet. Specific nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin B6, and zinc is crucial for progesterone synthesis.
3. Maintain healthy body weight
Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise helps to prevent excess estrogen production, indirectly supporting progesterone levels.
4. Adequate sleep
Quality sleep is essential for hormone regulation. During deep sleep, the body produces and releases hormones, including progesterone. Lack of sleep disrupts this process, affecting overall hormone balance.
5. Limit caffeine and alcohol
Excessive caffeine and alcohol intake can stress the adrenal glands, leading to hormonal imbalances. So, don’t drink too many cups of coffee or alcohol.
6. Exercise regularly
Regular moderate exercise supports overall hormonal balance and helps to manage body weight. Just don’t overdo it at a gym or even home.
7. Manage insulin levels
Insulin resistance can lead to hormonal imbalances, including low progesterone. Consuming a balanced diet, exercising regularly and managing carbohydrate intake can help to stabilise insulin levels.
Hormone levels and their influences on the body are complex, and so if you have doubt, you can always reach out to a doctor.