Infertility affects approximately 1 in 6 adults worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Among them, a large proportion are women who could suffer from hormonal imbalances. A healthy, successful pregnancy requires a proper balance of reproductive hormones, and progesterone is one of the most essential hormones at play. So if you’re planning 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 that is produced mainly in the ovaries after ovulation during the menstrual cycle and in smaller quantities by the adrenal glands, explains Dr Priyanka Chauhan Garg, Consultant – Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Max Super Specialty Hospital, Dehradun. Its name, “progestational,” literally means “for gestation” or pregnancy, highlighting 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 levels of progesterone can lead to many reproductive problems:
1. Irregular menstrual cycles
Without adequate progesterone, women may have missed or delayed their periods, the expert says.
2. Heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding
Progesterone helps regulate menstrual flow. In its absence, the uterine lining may become thicker, leading to heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding.
3. Difficulty conceiving
Insufficient progesterone can lead to a thin or unstable uterine lining, making it difficult for a fertilized egg to successfully implant. This can contribute to infertility problems and recurring unsuccessful attempts to conceive.
4. Repeated miscarriages
In early pregnancy, if progesterone levels are insufficient, the uterine lining may not be conducive to implantation and growth of the embryo, which can lead to recurrent miscarriages.
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5. Symptoms of PMS
Mood swings, irritability and breast tenderness are often more pronounced in women with insufficient progesterone levels, making the premenstrual phase particularly difficult for affected women.
What causes low progesterone levels?
Anovulation or lack of regular ovulation is one of the main causes 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 Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a hormonal disease that is quite common among women in the reproductive phase. Women with PCOS often have higher levels of androgens (male hormones) and may have irregular or absent ovulation, leading to low progesterone levels.
Whether emotional or physical, chronic stress can trigger the release of cortisol. High cortisol levels can suppress progesterone production, leading to hormonal imbalance.
3. Excessive exercise
Prolonged intense physical activity, especially among fitness enthusiasts, can lead to a condition called hypothalamic amenorrhea, in which menstruation stops due to hormonal imbalances, including low progesterone levels.
4. Significant weight loss or gain
Adipose tissue (fat cells) plays a role in hormonal metabolism. Drastic weight loss or gain can disrupt this balance, affecting progesterone production.
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 disrupt this balance, potentially leading to low progesterone levels.
How to Increase Progesterone Levels Naturally
There are several things you can do to increase 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 that the body has the nutrients necessary 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 are essential for the synthesis of progesterone.
3. Maintain a healthy weight
Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise helps prevent excess estrogen production, indirectly supporting progesterone levels.
4. Sufficient sleep
Quality sleep is essential for hormonal regulation. During deep sleep, the body produces and releases hormones, including progesterone. Lack of sleep disrupts this process, affecting overall hormonal balance.
5. Limit caffeine and alcohol
Excessive caffeine and alcohol consumption can stress the adrenal glands, leading to hormonal imbalances. So, don’t drink too many cups of coffee or alcohol.
6. Exercise regularly
Moderate, regular exercise supports overall hormonal balance and helps manage body weight. Don’t overdo it in a gym or even at home.
7. Manage insulin levels
Insulin resistance can lead to hormonal imbalances, including low progesterone levels. Eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and managing your carbohydrate intake can help stabilize insulin levels.
Hormone levels and their influences on the body are complex, so if in doubt, you can always consult a doctor.