According to the World Health Organization, infertility affects approximately 1 in 6 adults worldwide. Of these, a large proportion are women who may suffer from hormonal imbalances. A healthy and successful pregnancy requires a good balance of reproductive hormones, and progesterone is one of the most essential hormones involved. 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 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 Gynaecology, Max Super Specialty Hospital, Dehradun. The name, ‘pro-gestational’, literally means ‘before pregnancy’ or pregnancy, underscoring its importance in supporting pregnancy and maintaining a healthy reproductive system.
Low progesterone levels affect a woman’s health
Progesterone is crucial for several reproductive processes in women. Low progesterone levels can therefore lead to many reproductive problems:
1. Irregular menstrual cycles
Without enough progesterone, women may have missed or delayed their periods, the expert says.
2. Heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding
Progesterone helps regulate menstruation. If this is not the case, the uterine lining may thicken, leading to heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding.
3. Difficulty getting pregnant
Insufficient progesterone can result in a thin or unstable uterine lining, making it difficult for a fertilized egg to implant successfully. This can contribute to infertility problems and recurrent failed attempts at conception.
4. Recurrent miscarriages
If progesterone levels are inadequate in early pregnancy, the uterine lining may not be conducive to the implantation and growth of the embryo, which can lead to recurrent miscarriages.
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5. Symptoms of premenstrual syndrome
Mood swings, irritability and breast tenderness are often more pronounced in women with insufficient progesterone, making the premenstrual phase significantly more challenging for affected women.
What Causes Low Progesterone Levels?
Anovulation, or the failure to ovulate regularly, is a major cause of low progesterone levels. Normally, ovulation triggers the release of progesterone. When ovulation doesn’t 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 a common hormonal condition in 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.
Whether 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 among fitness enthusiasts, can lead to a condition known as hypothalamic amenorrhea, in which menstruation stops due to hormonal imbalances, including low progesterone levels.
4. Significant weight loss or weight gain
Adipose tissue (fat cells) plays a role in hormone metabolism. Drastic weight loss or weight gain can disrupt this balance, affecting progesterone production.
5. Thyroid disorders
Thyroid hormones influence the production and regulation of reproductive hormones, including progesterone. Conditions such as 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 a few 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 and indirectly support progesterone production, the expert says.
2. Balanced diet
A well-balanced diet ensures that the body has the necessary nutrients for hormone production. Add fruits, whole grains, vegetables, healthy fats and lean proteins to your diet. Specific nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin B6 and zinc are crucial for the synthesis of progesterone.
3. Maintain a healthy body weight
Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise helps prevent excess estrogen production, which indirectly supports progesterone levels.
4. Enough sleep
A good night’s sleep is essential for hormone regulation. During deep sleep, the body produces and releases hormones, including progesterone. A lack of sleep disrupts this process and affects the overall hormone balance.
5. Limit caffeine and alcohol
Excessive caffeine and alcohol intake can tax 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 control body weight. Just 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. Consuming a balanced diet, exercising regularly and controlling carbohydrate intake can help stabilize insulin levels.
Hormone levels and their influence on the body are complex, so if you are in doubt, you can always contact a doctor.