WHAT IS PROGESTERONE?
Like estrogen, which gets much more public attention, progesterone is a
female sex hormone. Women produce it in the ovaries and adrenal glands,
and during pregnancy in the placenta. With all the talk about estrogen,
progesterone is sometimes left behind as the forgotten female hormone.
WHAT ARE HORMONES AND HOW DO THEY WORK?
IS PROGESTIN THE SAME THING AS
Hormones are our bodies’ chemical messengers.
They travel through the bloodstream to trigger certain
No. Although these terms are often used interchangeably,
activities or changes in the body. Hormones work by
they do not
mean the same thing. Progesterone
binding to specialized areas of cells known as receptor
to the hormone produced in the body, or produced
sites. There they initiate a chain of events in specific
from a plant source but still chemically identical to
cells or organs. For example, progesterone has been
human progesterone. In contrast, progestin
known to initiate a calming effect in the brain,
hormone that is synthetically produced and may differ
in structure to progesterone. You may also have heard
This is a general term that applies
WHAT DOES PROGESTERONE DO?
to the category of both natural and synthetic hormones
During the reproductive years, progesterone prepares
that act like progesterone in the uterus. See the
the uterine lining (or womb) for pregnancy. Each month,
difference in the molecular structure depicted below.
progesterone levels rise following ovulation. Unless
you become pregnant, the progesterone levels drop
HERE’S WHAT THE “NATURAL” PROGESTERONE
HORMONE LOOKS LIKE:
and trigger a monthly menstrual period. Progesterone
can also play an important role in balancing out
the effects of estrogen and other hormones. If you have
too much estrogen and not enough progesterone,
your body may be thrown out of balance. During
menopause hormone imbalance can lead to symptoms
such as hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, vaginal
dryness, irritability, or decreased sex drive. During
the reproductive years, hormone imbalance may
cause premenstrual complaints such as water retention,
breast tenderness, migraines or mood swings.
HERE’S WHAT THE ALTERED MOLECULAR STRUCTURE
WHAT IS "NATURAL" OR "BIO-IDENTICAL"
OF A PROGESTOGEN LOOKS LIKE:
Progesterone is a hormone produced in the body.
The term "natural" or "bio-identical" progesterone
refers to progesterone that is identical to the
progesterone that the human body produces.
Natural or bio-identical progesterone is formulated
from a substance found in Mexican wild yams and
other plants. These similar plant hormones are
further modified in a laboratory to become identical
in chemical structure to the human progesterone
ARE PROGESTERONE AND PRODUCTS THAT
as in this large French study. As with all hormones,
HOW DO I TALK TO MY HEALTH CARE PROVIDER
CONTAIN WILD YAM EXTRACT THE SAME THING?
they should be considered carefully with the assistance
ABOUT NATURAL PROGESTERONE?
No. Wild yam is an herbal extract. Whether found in a capsule
of your physician or other health care provider.
Discuss the range of options and choices with your
or cream, wild yam extract the herb, does not
health care provider for menopause or other women's
progesterone in the body. Products that contain progesterone
IS PROGESTERONE RIGHT FOR ME?
health concerns. Discuss the information in this
How can a hormone
should be labeled as containing USP Progesterone.
“Natural” or “bio-identical” progesterone can be found
connected with pregnancy also
in a variety of forms: creams, gels, suppositories,
affect my mood after
HOW DO SYNTHETIC PROGESTINS COMPARE
pills, or patches – and can come in a range of doses.
WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION ABOUT
WITH BIO-IDENTICAL PROGESTERONE?
We recommend that you work with your health care
PROGESTERONE AND MENOPAUSE?
Synthetic progestins do not always act the same in
provider to find out if you need to supplement your
in many parts of your body besides the uterus. Thus
Women in Balance
is a national, non-profit association
the body as natural progesterone. Synthetic progestins
hormones with progesterone. Then if warranted,
progesterone, or a lack of progesterone, may affect other
of women, doctors, health care professionals, and
are broken down in the liver into a variety of
work with them to ensure you get the right physi-
aspects of your health, too, such as fat metabolism,
national organizations dedicated to helping women
metabolites, and while some of these bind to proges-
sleeping patterns, thyroid activity, mood, sex drive,
ological, individual dose for you. Progesterone can be
achieve optimal health, wellness and hormone
terone receptors and thus may mimic some of
prescribed by your physician, or progesterone cream
balance. Please visit our website for more information,
bio-identical progesterone’s effects, others can bind
can be purchased at natural products stores or online.
resources and research and to sign up for the free
to various types of steroid receptors throughout the
However, not all progesterone creams are created
body, causing side effects1. For example, while
equal. If you are purchasing them at a local store,
and menstrual periods, you may experience other
natural progesterone promotes and sustains pregnancy,
look for a product that contains USP progesterone
symptoms. For example, progesterone has a calming
synthetic progestins cannot be
used during preg-
effect on the nervous system, thus a lower level of the
nancy due to the potential risk to the fetus
hormone may contribute to increased night sweats,
Many women find relief from the use of progesterone
because of their wider range of hormonal effects. Also,
Every woman will experience changes in her health
anxiety, insomnia, irritability or mood swings.
cream. One research study found that using a cream
clinical trials comparing bio-identical progesterone
makes it easier for women to adjust their use to meet
during her lifetime. Good health, wellness, and
with synthetic progestins are showing a significantly
hormone balance is the foundation for everything
HOW CAN PROGESTERONE CREAM HELP ADDRESS
their needs as well as allowing them to use a more
better safety profile for the bio-identical progesterone
women do – from work to taking care of their families
THE HORMONAL IMBALANCES OF MENOPAUSE?
efficient, lower dose than with pills, while benefiting
group; in one large trial (PEPI), the bio-identical
progesterone group had a healthier blood lipid profile2.
Progesterone cream is easily absorbed into the blood
in partnership with a health care professional, can
stream through the skin. Progesterone cream may
decide what works for you. Be an informed consumer.
help support progesterone levels and CAN alleviate
WHAT HAPPENS TO PROGESTERONE DURING
some menopausal discomforts. Clinical studies have
shown that bio-identical progesterone cream effectively
WHAT DOES USP PROGESTERONE MEAN?
As you approach menopause, progesterone is the first
The United States Pharmacopoeia
is a compendium
hormone to decrease, followed by fluctuating estrogen
of drugs published every year by the United States
levels. This phase, called perimenopause, may start
Stanczyk FZ. All progestins are not created equal.
IS PROGESTERONE SAFE?
Pharmacopoeial Convention. Stating USP before the
as early as your late thirties or early forties and last
ingredient, in this case USP Progesterone, means
Progesterone has been used in a number of clinical
as long as ten years. Your periods may become more
that it is a known substance and matches quality
Writing Group for the PEPI Trial. Effects of estrogen or
applications since 1940. Its early use was to assist
estrogen/progestin regimens on heart disease risk factors in
irregular. You may not ovulate some months, and
specifications published in this compendium.
women with infertility. Progesterone has NOT been
postmenopausal women. The postmenopausal
thus not produce any progesterone. This may disrupt
estrogen/progestin interventions (PEPI) trial. JAMA 1995;
linked to increased cancer risk. In fact, a large study
the estrogen/progesterone balance, causing a variety of
conducted in France to look at the risk of breast
symptoms such as bloating, breast tenderness, night
Leonetti HB, Longo S, Anasti JN. Transdermal progesterone
cancer with hormone replacement therapy found that
sweats, anxiety, insomnia, headaches, and irritability.
cream for vasomotor symptoms and postmenopausal bone loss.
using bio-identical progesterone did not cause any
Couldn’t I simply get
After menopause, your ovaries cease to produce
increase in breast cancer, whereas use of synthetic
more progesterone by
Fournier A, Berrino F, Riboli E, Avenel V, Clavel-Chapelon F.
progesterone, but the body will continue to produce
progestins did result in a statistically significant
eating wild yams?
Breast cancer risk in relation to different types of hormone
up to 40% of the levels of estrogen you had before
replacement therapy in the E3N-EPIC cohort. Int J Cancer
menopause. Of course, the level of production
that progesterone is often confused with progestins,
depends on the individual. Since progesterone affects
which have been linked to increased cancer risk as
Leonetti HB, Landes J, Steinberg D, Anasti JN. Topical
progesterone cream as an alternative progestin in hormone
numerous aspects of your health besides pregnancy
evidenced in the Women’s Health Initiative as well
therapy. Altern Ther Health Med 2005; 11(6):36-38.
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