How Progesterone Works
Does your doctor suspect that you suffer from a progesterone deficiency? Your doctor may prescribe progesterone supplements to help your body to sustain a pregnancy. Studies find that progesterone supplementation can help women become, and stay, pregnant.
A natural hormone
It is important to understand how progesterone works to better understand how it can help you conceive. Progesterone is a naturally occurring female hormone that is vital for conception. The hormone causes the uterine lining to thicken and prevents it from shedding. This provides a healthy environment for a fertilized egg to implant and grow.
Progesterone levels rise after ovulation. If fertilization occurs, progesterone levels remain high throughout the first trimester. At that point, the placenta takes over progesterone production. If fertilization doesn’t occur, progesterone levels dip, and the uterine lining sheds (menstruation).
A lack of progesterone can hinder a fertilized egg from implanting or staying implanted due to an unhealthy lining. Sometimes implantation does occur, but there isn’t enough progesterone to maintain a nourishing lining. In this case, miscarriage often occurs. Some women’s ovaries do not produce enough progesterone. Other women may have poorly developed follicles that do not secrete enough progesterone. If you are one of these women and your fertility problems stem from a progesterone deficiency, you may have difficulty conceiving or sustaining a pregnancy.
Assisted Reproductive Technologies
Progesterone is especially vital for women undergoing Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART), such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), donor egg, or frozen embryo transfers. Women undergoing ART typically have to take medications that inhibit the body's natural production of progesterone. Progesterone supplementation is necessary for a successful outcome with ART.
How do I take progesterone?
If you or your doctor suspects that you have a progesterone deficiency, you may be prescribed a progesterone supplement. The supplement will boost progesterone levels in your body, helping to thicken the uterine lining and support fetal growth. There are several different options for women taking progesterone, including:
- Injections delivered intramuscularly once a day, starting 2 days after egg retrieval
- Oral pills taken up to 3 times a day or inserted vaginally
- Vaginal gel used once daily
- Vaginal inserts used 2 to 3 times daily
- Vaginal suppository used 2 to 3 time a day
You may continue taking the supplement until the 10th to 12th week of pregnancy. At that point, the placenta should be producing adequate amount of progesterone to support your pregnancy. The method you use may depend on your comfort level, convenience, and your doctor’s recommendation. Talk with your doctor to see if progesterone is right for you.
You can learn more details about progesterone here.
- RESOLVE: Progesterone and Pregnancy: A Vital Connection
- American Pregnancy Association: Infertility Medications
- American Pregnancy Association: Concerns Regarding Early Fetal Development
- Reproductive Facts: Progesterone supplementation during the luteal phase and in early pregnancy in the treatment of infertility: an educational bulletin.