Do You Have Low Progesterone?
Signs of low progesterone and natural techniques to remedy this
Progesterone is a hormone that is released by the corpus luteum gland post ovulation, this is they key indicator to let us know we have ovulated. But it is also the hormone that makes a happy, healthy endometrial lining for implantation of the embryo during pregnancy. Pretty important hey?
But how do you know if yours is low? And what can you do about it?
The key thing here is to use your menstrual cycle as your diagnostic tool! As women, we are so fortunate to get a health card every month that lays out to us exactly what is going on in our bodies. If we take note of these signs and symptoms, and learn exactly what we need to work on to bring us back into good health.1 // Basel Body Temperature (BBT) Charting – A rise in temperature post ovulation indicates you’re now in your luteal phase, due to the hormone progesterone. This should stay pretty consistent until menstruation. A healthy luteal phase that lasts between 10-16 days. If your luteal phase is consistently 10 days or lower then this could indicate low progesterone.
2// A second BBT chart indicator – If the rise in temperature post ovulation isn’t significant, this could also indicate low progesterone.
3 // Spotting before your period – This can be common post coming of the contraceptive pill but it’s not what is considered “normal”. Simply put, this means that progesterone isn’t high enough to keep your endometrial lining in place.
4 // The quality of your period – Is your period light? Or like more browny in colour, rather than a bright, juicy red? This could indicate that progesterone isn’t nourishing your endometrial lining.
Why Might you have Low Progesterone?
Contraceptive pill, stress, post pregnancy, thyroid
It is a misconception to think that low progesterone is happening on its own and that there is a magical supplement out there that is going to fix it. There are often a lot of different factors at play when it comes to why this is happening and what we can do about it.
Supplements and medication can be useful at addressing the symptom, but what they aren’t doing is looking at the root cause of the issue. Here are some useful insights to help you identify your “root cause” if you believe low progesterone is something you suffer with.
1 // What’s your birth control history? It can take several months “post pill” for our cycles to normalise. There is a study that compares the pre and post ovulation phases of women that are TTC, post pill and those women who have never been on the pill. This study found it took 9-12 cycles before the post pill control groups periods began to normalise.
2 // Are you post pregnancy/miscarriage/abortion? Your first 2-3 cycles post-partum can again take your cyclical hormones to normalise.
3 // Stressed? This doesn’t have to be a major stress in your life. It can be something as simple as travel or a change in exercise routine. The body thrives on habit and routine, so for us to venture outside this “norm” it creates a level of stress on the body, whether we perceive it as the typical stressor we’re used to.
“BUT WHY WOULD STRESS DISRUPT MY CYCLE?” We are all familiar with the stress hormone, cortisol. But what you may not be aware of is that our bodies make cortisol from progesterone! Cortisol is literally stealing from your progesterone reserves to help you deal with internal stress!
A significant stressor in the luteal phase could be signposted in your mestrual cycle by “low progesterone” signs and symptoms – Short luteal phase or pre-menstrual spotting.
But it doesn’t have to be an acute stress. It can also be a chronic stressor, like food sensitivities (gut issues), auto-immune issues, allergies, an underlying infection,
4 // Thyroid – Issues that hasn’t yet been addressed.
Compating Low Progesterone, Naturally
Simple techniques to help low progesterone & when to seek help
1 // Sleep – Are you getting enough sleep? And, what is the environment you choose to sleep in? Research shows that if you’re not sleeping in the dark (street lights, LED lights, non-black out blinds/curtains) can actually stimulate cortisol production. And remember, cortisol is the thief of progesterone! It can actually stimulate a similar effect to coffee in how it affects your cortisol levels and melatonin (sleep hormone) levels.
2 // Diet – Or specifically sugar, alcohol and coffee! These all stimulate cortisol production. If you are charting, you will physically see your progesterone rise in your luteal phase if you cut these things out. Good fats are essential for women too as these create healthy cell membranes full of “good cholesterol”. Cholesterol is the precursor for all hormones in the body so it is VITAL AND ESSENTIAL for a healthy cycle. Give your body the raw materials it needs to create these hormones by supplementing your diet with lots of good fats!
Food or supplements high in vitamins A, B and C are also key in supporting balanced hormonal production.
IF these natural suggestions don’t have an impact on your progesterone, you will want to start investigating if there is an underlying stressor in the body, for example, a food intolerance or a nutrient deficiency. Or a thyroid/endocrine/adrenal impairment. For this, I advise you to seek relevant support with your doctor and they will help guide you in the correct course of action.