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Progesterone and the Postmenopausal Woman: Yes, it still exists.

 

While progesterone is thought of as primarily a uterus hormone essential for getting a pregnancy to term, its role in how a woman feels and functions does not stop with childbearing years or post-hysterectomy, contrary to what some Western Medicine doctors have been taught. 

In this blog, I will review what progesterone is, why postmenopausal women still need progesterone, how progesterone affects mood and sleep, how to support progesterone in the postmenopausal woman naturally, and what supplements can help with progesterone. menopausal Woman:

Progesterone is a hormone that plays a crucial role in the female reproductive system. It is one of the two main hormones involved in the menstrual cycle and is primarily produced by the ovaries in women. Smaller amounts of progesterone are also produced by the adrenal glands (the primary source in postmenopausal women) and the placenta during pregnancy.

Progesterone helps prepare the uterus for pregnancy and is involved in regulating the menstrual cycle. During the menstrual cycle, progesterone levels rise after ovulation and help thicken the uterine lining in preparation for the implantation of a fertilized egg. If pregnancy occurs, progesterone continues to be produced to support the development of the embryo and maintain the uterine lining.

If pregnancy does not occur, progesterone levels decline, leading to the shedding of the uterine lining and the start of a new menstrual cycle. In addition to its role in the menstrual cycle, progesterone also plays a part in maintaining a healthy pregnancy by inhibiting contractions of the uterus and supporting the growth of the placenta.

Progesterone is also used medically for various purposes. It is commonly prescribed as part of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to relieve symptoms of menopause and to support the endometrium (uterine lining) in women receiving estrogen replacement therapy. Progesterone can also be prescribed to help regulate irregular menstrual cycles and treat conditions such as endometriosis and infertility.

It’s important to note that while progesterone is primarily associated with female reproductive functions, it is also produced in smaller amounts in males and plays a role in certain physiological processes, such as sperm production.

Why would a post-menopausal woman need progesterone?

In postmenopausal women, the need for progesterone may vary depending on individual circumstances and health conditions. While postmenopausal women no longer experience menstrual cycles or require progesterone for fertility purposes, there are certain situations where progesterone may still be recommended. Here are a few scenarios where progesterone may be prescribed for postmenopausal women:

 

    • Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): Postmenopausal women who undergo hormone replacement therapy (HRT) often receive a combination of estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen therapy alone can increase the risk of endometrial (uterine) cancer, so progesterone is prescribed alongside estrogen to protect the lining of the uterus and reduce this risk. This combination is typically prescribed to women who have an intact uterus, but just because you don’t have a uterus anymore doesn’t mean HRT would not be beneficial. Talk to an HRT specialist to see if HRT could be right for you.

    • Management of Menopausal Symptoms: Some postmenopausal women experience persistent or new-onset symptoms, such as hot flashes, mood swings, insomnia, or vaginal dryness. In certain cases, progesterone may be prescribed as part of a hormone therapy regimen to help alleviate these symptoms, particularly if estrogen-alone therapy is insufficient or contraindicated.

    • Uterine Protection: In cases where postmenopausal women receive estrogen therapy alone, particularly in those who have had a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus), progesterone may not be necessary for uterine protection since there is no risk of endometrial cancer. However, if estrogen therapy is combined with progestins (synthetic progesterone-like substances), it may still be used to provide endometrial protection.

It’s important to note that the decision to use progesterone in postmenopausal women should be made on an individual basis, taking into consideration factors such as personal health history, symptoms, and potential risks and benefits. It is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional who specializes in menopause management or hormone therapy to discuss the specific needs and considerations in your situation.

How does progesterone affect mood?


Progesterone can have various effects on mood due to its influence on the central nervous system and interactions with neurotransmitters in the brain. Here are some ways in which progesterone can impact mood:

 

    • Calming and Sedative Effects: Progesterone has a calming effect on the brain and can act as a natural sedative. It enhances the activity of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation and reduces anxiety. Increased levels of progesterone can contribute to feelings of calmness and improved overall mood.

    • Mood Stabilization: Progesterone is known to help stabilize mood by modulating the activity of other neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine. These neurotransmitters are involved in regulating mood, emotions, and feelings of well-being. Progesterone’s influence on these neurotransmitters can contribute to more stable and balanced mood states.

    • Antidepressant Effects: Progesterone may have antidepressant-like effects by influencing the activity of serotonin receptors in the brain. Serotonin is often referred to as the “feel-good” neurotransmitter, and maintaining optimal levels of serotonin is crucial for maintaining a positive mood. Progesterone’s interactions with serotonin receptors may help alleviate symptoms of depression and enhance overall mood.

    • Anxiety Reduction: Progesterone’s calming effects and its ability to enhance GABA activity can also help reduce anxiety symptoms. GABA inhibits the activity of excitatory neurotransmitters, which can help lower anxiety levels and promote a sense of relaxation.

It’s important to note that the effects of progesterone on mood can vary among individuals and can be influenced by factors such as hormone levels, fluctuations throughout the menstrual cycle, and individual sensitivity to hormonal changes. Additionally, progesterone’s effects on mood may be more noticeable in women with hormone imbalances or those experiencing fluctuations in hormone levels, such as during the menstrual cycle or perimenopause.

If you are experiencing significant mood changes or concerns about your mood, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional, such as a gynecologist or endocrinologist, who can evaluate your specific situation, assess hormone levels if necessary, and provide appropriate guidance and treatment options.

How does progesterone affect sleep?


Progesterone can influence sleep in several ways due to its effects on the central nervous system and interactions with neurotransmitters. Here are some ways in which progesterone can affect sleep:

 

    • Sedative and Calming Effects: Progesterone has natural sedative properties and can promote a sense of relaxation. It enhances the activity of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that helps calm the brain and induce sleep. Increased levels of progesterone can contribute to feelings of drowsiness and help facilitate the onset of sleep.

    • Regulation of Sleep-Wake Cycle: Progesterone plays a role in regulating the sleep-wake cycle, also known as the circadian rhythm. It helps promote the proper timing and duration of sleep by interacting with the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in the brain, which is the body’s internal clock. Progesterone helps synchronize sleep patterns and supports the overall sleep-wake cycle.

    • Improved Sleep Quality: Progesterone has been associated with improved sleep quality. It may help increase the amount of deep sleep, also known as slow-wave sleep, which is important for restorative functions such as tissue repair, memory consolidation, and overall rejuvenation. Higher levels of progesterone are typically observed during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, which is associated with deeper and more restful sleep.

    • Reduction of Sleep Disturbances: Progesterone may help reduce sleep disturbances and awakenings during the night. By promoting relaxation, reducing anxiety, and stabilizing mood, it can contribute to a more uninterrupted and restful sleep experience.

It’s important to note that the effects of progesterone on sleep can vary among individuals and can be influenced by factors such as hormone levels, fluctuations throughout the menstrual cycle, and individual sensitivity to hormonal changes. Additionally, other factors, such as lifestyle habits, stress, and underlying sleep disorders, can also impact sleep quality.

If you are experiencing persistent sleep disturbances or concerns about your sleep patterns, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional who can evaluate your specific situation, assess hormone levels if necessary, and provide appropriate guidance and treatment options. They can help determine if progesterone supplementation or other interventions are suitable for your individual needs.

How to naturally support progesterone in the postmenopausal woman.


In postmenopausal women, the production of progesterone naturally declines due to the cessation of ovarian function. While it may not be possible to restore progesterone levels to pre-menopausal levels naturally, there are lifestyle changes and natural remedies that may help support hormonal balance and overall well-being. Here are some strategies that may assist in naturally supporting progesterone levels in postmenopausal women:

 

    • Balanced Diet: Consume a healthy and balanced diet that includes a variety of whole foods. Focus on nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Include foods rich in B vitamins, magnesium, and zinc, as these nutrients are essential for hormone production and balance.

    • Manage Stress: Chronic stress can disrupt hormonal balance, including progesterone levels. Engage in stress management techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or any other activities that help you relax and reduce stress.

    • Regular Exercise: Engage in regular physical activity as it can help support hormonal balance. Exercise promotes overall well-being and can help manage weight, reduce stress, and improve mood.

    • Natural Supplements: Some herbal supplements and nutrients may support hormone balance and progesterone production. However, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplements. Examples of supplements that are sometimes used to support hormonal balance include chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus), evening primrose oil, and omega-3 fatty acids.

    • Lifestyle Factors: Avoid or minimize exposure to environmental toxins, such as synthetic hormones, pesticides, and chemicals found in some personal care products. These substances may disrupt hormone balance. Additionally, ensure you get sufficient sleep and maintain a healthy weight, as these factors can also influence hormonal health.

    • Bioidentical Hormone Therapy: Bioidentical hormone therapy (BHT) is a treatment option that involves using hormones that are structurally identical to those naturally produced in the body. BHT can be prescribed by a healthcare professional and may involve the use of progesterone creams or other forms of progesterone supplementation. It is essential to work with a knowledgeable healthcare provider to determine if this option is suitable for you and to monitor hormone levels and overall health.

Remember, it is always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional who specializes in hormone health and menopause before making any significant changes to your diet, lifestyle, or considering hormone therapy. They can provide personalized guidance based on your individual needs and medical history.

What supplements can help support a healthy progesterone level in a postmenopausal woman?


In postmenopausal women, progesterone levels naturally decline due to the cessation of ovarian function. While there are no specific supplements that can directly increase progesterone levels, some supplements and nutrients may support hormonal balance and overall well-being. It’s important to note that individual responses to supplements may vary, and it’s recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplements. Here are some supplements that are sometimes used to support hormonal balance in postmenopausal women:

 

    • Vitamin B6: Vitamin B6 is involved in the production and regulation of hormones, including progesterone. It can be found in foods like bananas, chickpeas, salmon, and spinach. Some women may benefit from vitamin B6 supplementation, but it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate dosage and duration.

    • Magnesium: Magnesium is an essential mineral involved in numerous bodily functions, including hormone regulation. Some studies suggest that magnesium supplementation may help support hormone balance and alleviate symptoms associated with hormonal changes. Dietary sources of magnesium include nuts, seeds, dark leafy greens, and whole grains.

    • Zinc: Zinc is another important mineral that plays a role in hormone production and balance. It is involved in the conversion of hormones and supports overall hormonal health. Good dietary sources of zinc include oysters, beef, pumpkin seeds, and spinach. Zinc supplements may be considered under the guidance of a healthcare professional if there is a deficiency or a need for support.

    • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, as well as chia seeds and walnuts, have anti-inflammatory properties and may help support hormonal balance. They can be obtained through diet or by taking fish oil supplements. Consult with a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate dosage and quality of supplements.

    • Adaptogenic Herbs: Certain adaptogenic herbs, such as ashwagandha and maca root, have been traditionally used to support hormonal balance and overall well-being. These herbs are thought to help the body adapt to stress and support the endocrine system. However, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before using these herbs, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking medications.

Remember that supplements should not replace a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle. They are intended to complement a well-rounded approach to overall health and hormonal balance. It’s important to work with a healthcare professional who can evaluate your specific needs, assess any potential deficiencies, and provide personalized recommendations based on your individual health status and goals.

Need your hormones checked? Can’t get your doctor to take you seriously? Tired of the sick approach to your health? Contact me at Antigravity Wellness today.

Deeper Dive: Check out this review if you want to learn more about progesterone in peri- and postmenopause:

Regidor PA. Progesterone in Peri- and Postmenopause: A Review. Geburtshilfe Frauenheilkd. 2014 Nov;74(11):995-1002. doi: 10.1055/s-0034-1383297. PMID: 25484373; PMCID: PMC4245250.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4245250/

 

Hi! My name is Nicole D. Smith, and I am a Doctorally prepared Advanced Registered Family Nurse Practitioner in Washington State. I specialize in Functional Nutrition, Fitness, and Medicine, as well as Women’s Health, Hormones, and Metabolism. You can set up a consult with me here. I would love to help you get to the root cause of why you are not feeling and looking your best so we can work together to get you back to feeling more energetic, youthful, leaner, and stronger than you thought possible!

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