Progesterone is your calming, soothing, anti-inflammatory hormone. It’s good for mood, hair, breasts, and of course for holding a pregnancy. In fact, progesterone’s essential role in pregnancy is how it got its name: Pro-gestation hormone, shortened to progesterone.
Are you making enough progesterone? Are you sure?
4 Signs of Low Progesterone
Short Luteal Phase
Your luteal phase is the time between ovulation and your period. It should last 11-14 days, which is the lifespan of the corpus luteum—your ovary’s temporary progesterone-secreting gland. If your luteal phase is shorter than 11 days, then it’s because your corpus luteum did not form properly. This is called a luteal phase defect, and is associated with low progesterone.
Low Temperatures in Your Luteal Phase
Progesterone stimulates your thyroid, so it heats up your body. That’s why your basal body temperature goes up after ovulation, and should stay up until one day before your period. If your temperature does not go up or stay up, then you probably have a problem with progesterone.
Fertile Mucus in Your Luteal Phase
Estrogen stimulates the clear stretchy fertile mucus or cervical fluid. Progesterone dries it up. You should see drier, tackier mucus throughout all your luteal phase. If you see fertile mucus in your luteal phase, then it means your progesterone has dropped away too soon.
Progesterone matures and stabilizes your uterine lining, so it holds and does not shed too soon. If you don’t have enough progesterone, then you’ll see a small amount of red-brown bleeding 3-4 days before your period starts.
Other causes of premenstrual spotting: Gynecological conditions such as infection, endometriosis, uterine polyps, and ovarian cysts. If it’s a new symptom for you, then check with your doctor.
Normal spotting with ovulation: Light bright red bleeding (or blood streaked mucus) on the day of ovulation is common and normal. It is caused by a mini-estrogen withdrawal as your estrogen dips after its pre-ovulatory surge. It doesn’t mean anything about progesterone.
If you suspect low progesterone, then ask your doctor for a blood test. To get a meaningful result, you must do the blood test about 7 days before your period is due. That is sometimes called “day 21 progesterone”, but it will only be day 21 if you have a 28 day cycle. If you have a normal 35 day cycle, then you should test progesterone on day 28.
Your blood level of progesterone should be greater than 8 ng/mL or 25 nmol/L. That is the minimum but you can have a lot more progesterone—which would be a good thing! When it comes to progesterone, the more the better.
What to Do
The only way to make more progesterone is to have a strong, quality ovulation. That means correcting any obstacles to ovulation such as insulin resistance, thyroid, chronic stress, and nutrient deficiency. Beneficial supplements for ovulation and progesterone include magnesium, zinc, selenium, and the herbal medicine Vitex.
For more information on how to improve the quality of your ovulation, please see my book Period Repair Manual.
The fabulous Lara Briden and how she helps women get healthy.
Dr. Lara Briden is a board certified Naturopathic Doctor. She qualified from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in 1997, and currently runs a busy hormone clinic in Sydney, Australia. Lara has nearly twenty years experience treating period problems, and earlier this year, she released her book: Period Repair Manual: Natural Treatment for Better Hormones and Better Periods. To learn more about her visit larabriden.com