Early Pregnancy and High Levels of Progesterone
In early pregnancy, it is completely natural for your progesterone levels to rise. They rise as the foetus grows. If you have high enough levels of progesterone, it may actually put you to sleep. Also, a high level of progesterone may make you become constipated because it slows the food moving through your intestines, making it harder to have a bowel movement.
If you have an unusually high level of progesterone in early pregnancy, it may also mean that you're having multiples--twins or triplets. Sometimes increased levels of progesterone can indicate problems as well. Higher levels of progesterone can sometimes indicate ovarian cysts, molar pregnancies (non-viable pregnancies) and sometimes ovarian cancer.
Pregnancy and Low Progesterone Levels
During pregnancy, some women will experience lower levels of progesterone. This usually indicates an ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage and can also help doctors monitor high-risk pregnancies. Low levels of progesterone is sometimes seen in women who have developed toxaemia later in pregnancy. Sometimes lower levels of progesterone are often seen with miscarriages during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
What Are the Normal Ranges of Progesterone During Pregnancy
Your progesterone levels will vary before pregnancy and during pregnancy. On average, your levels of progesterone before pregnancy will range from 1 to 28 ng/ml. From conception to 12 weeks of pregnancy, the normal range is usually 9 to 47 ng/ml. After your 12th week of pregnancy, the normal range of progesterone can be between 17 to 146 ng/ml. Once you've reached 28 weeks through birth, your progesterone levels can vary from 55 to 200 ng/ml. Your caregiver can order tests before and during your pregnancy to determine your levels.
Progesterone is a steroid hormone that is vital to the reproduction process. Progesterone is regularly produced in the ovaries and the brain during the menstrual cycle by a chemical process that breaks down cholesterol molecules through double oxidation. Progesterone production begins on the first day of ovulation and continues for the next 12 to 15 days. During pregnancy, progesterone continues to be produced by the ovaries until the end of the first trimester, when the placenta takes over production. Progesterone becomes more and more crucial for development of the foetus and to maintain adequate blood circulation in the womb.
The most common symptom of low levels of progesterone and the human chorionic gonadotrophin hormone (hCG) is bleeding in the first few weeks of gestation. While there can be other causes of this, any spotting that occurs, especially if it is accompanied by cramping, could be an indication of low levels of progesterone. While the old standard for testing for low hormone levels called for special blood tests only after a third miscarriage, more obstetricians are recognising the need for early detection of low progesterone levels.
Although blood spotting is the most common indication of possible progesterone deficiency during early pregnancy, women who have been found to be deficient in progesterone during pregnancy have reported increased tenderness in the breasts and lower back pain combined with spotting within the first trimester. These symptoms by themselves may not be indicative of low levels of progesterone, and may be due to other things that are taking place in the body, such as the growth of milk-producing cells and fibrocystic swelling. However, if spotting is happening and other symptoms occur, it could be a sign of low progesterone production.
If insufficient progesterone production is suspected, blood tests can check for levels of progesterone and hCG. According to Dr. John Lee of DiagnoseMe.com, once progesterone deficiency has been determined, progesterone supplements can be prescribed. There are several types of supplements available, including vaginal suppositories, hormone injections and oral supplements. While there have been new developments in topical hormonal creams that have been reported to have some success, the opinion of some in the medical establishment indicates that topical creams may not have a significant effect on maintaining proper levels of hormones during early pregnancy.
The advice of a reputable OB/GYN should always be sought by any woman who suspects she may be pregnant, especially if there are any symptoms of progesterone deficiency in the early stages. The chance for premature birth, ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy outside the womb) and miscarriage can be greatly reduced by maintaining proper levels of progesterone. This will ensure healthy fetal growth, will protect the foetus from bacterial infection and will provide valuable information for a successful delivery.
The Fertility Cycle
The average woman's 28-day fertility cycle can be divided into three phases. The first two consist of menstruation and ovulation, but progesterone plays an important role in the last phase, also called the luteal phase. After ovulation, the follicle that released the egg turns yellow and is now called a corpus luteum. The corpus luteum secretes progesterone, a basic female hormone. Progesterone has several effects on the woman's fertility cycle.
For the 10 to 14 days immediately after ovulation, elevated progesterone levels make sure the lining of the uterus maintains its rich, thick blood supply to nourish a fertilized egg. Progesterone suppresses subsequent ovulation during the luteal phases. A woman's resting body temperature--her basal body temperature--remains elevated by about 0.4 degrees because of the surge of progesterone. In addition, during this time cervical mucus thickens and forms a plug in the cervical canal and the cervix lowers. All of this is to prepare the body for a possible implantation and pregnancy immediately after ovulation.
Progesterone and Fertility Problems
When a woman has low progesterone, she may have shortened luteal phases. This can be especially troubling for a woman trying to conceive, as this lack of progesterone prevents an egg from implanting in the uterus before the cervical lining is shed in the form of monthly menstruation. Low progesterone may also cause premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and a general uncomfortable feeling during the luteal phase. Also, women who have lowered levels of progesterone may experience miscarriages, as their bodies aren't making enough to maintain a pregnancy.
To combat low progesterone levels, Marilyn Shannon, author of "Fertility, Cycles and Nutrition," recommends taking 200-800 milligrams of vitamin B6 daily. Vitamin B6 may lengthen the luteal phase, thus allowing a fertilized egg to implant. The raised progesterone levels this supplement provides will also bring relief for those suffering with PMS.
Synthetic treatments for elevating progesterone levels also exist. Provera--synthetic progesterone--may be prescribed for prolonged menstrual bleeding due to a hormonal imbalance. Birth-control pills may also be effective. In addition, progesterone creams may be beneficial for keeping the rich cervical lining intact during the fertility cycle. Menopausal women may find relief from these creams, as progesterone levels decline as a woman ages.