What You Need to Know About Progesterone Supplements During Pregnancy
When I had my second miscarriage in a row earlier this month, I had a lot of people contact me suggesting that I try progesterone if I ever had another pregnancy. Many mothers shared their experience using progesterone after having miscarriages and how they felt the progesterone supplements actually helped them keep their pregnancies.
But what is progesterone and can it actually help some women during pregnancy?
Progesterone is actually a hormone that serves a lot of roles for women. Like women themselves, progesterone can do a lot of things, even though it is just one hormone. According to hormone.org, progesterone is produced by a temporary endocrine gland that the body makes after ovulation. Crazy, right? The female body somehow makes a temporary gland just to churn out some hormones that it needs. So.cool.
But anyway, back to what progesterone actually does. So after ovulation, progesterone starts prepping the body for pregnancy. That's why it has the reputation as the “pregnancy” hormone. Progesterone gets the lining of the uterus nice and welcoming to accept a fertilized egg and it stops the uterus from contracting to get rid of an egg. It also stops ovulation from happening again, so when progesterone levels are high in the body, the body will not ovulate. Once it forms, the placenta also produces its own source of progesterone, which helps do things like make milk and help maintain the pregnancy. High progesterone is a signal to the body that it's not a good time to try to get pregnant and/or the body is trying to maintain a pregnancy.
That's why it was theorized that taking progesterone supplements may help women at risk for a miscarriage maintain their pregnancies. Studies about how effective progesterone is for preventing miscarriage are conflicted, however. One study from 2012 looked at women who had unexplained recurrent miscarriages found that women who took progesterone supplements early in their pregnancies did seem to have a decreased rate of miscarriage as compared to other women in the study. All of the women had experienced at least four times and had no medical reason for miscarrying, so the study suggested that the progesterone might be the reason to explain the difference.
Another larger study called the PROMISE trial, however, seemed to prove, once and for all, that progesterone does not help prevent miscarriage. The study looked at 862 women and found that progesterone was not linked to helping prevent miscarriage in any way, unfortunately.
This is disheartening to any woman who might be looking for any type of solution for maintaining a pregnancy after loss, but the larger study also showed that in the majority of cases, even women who had recurrent miscarriages and did not take progesterone were still able to have go on to have successful pregnancies. So, there is hope after loss if you are hoping to conceive again.
Outside of pregnancy, if you have low levels of progesterone, it can throw your hormones out of whack, because it will trigger your estrogen levels to be too high and that can cause lowered sex drive, weight gain, and irregular cycles.
The bottom line? Progesterone plays a huge role in our lives as women. It helps your body get ready for pregnancy and it helps keep our menstrual cycle in check and our other hormones in balance. If you have symptoms such as unexplained weight gain, recurrent unexplained miscarriage, lowered sex drive and fatigue, you should consider talking to your doctor about testing your progesterone levels.
Although studies have seemed to prove that taking progesterone supplements will not prevent miscarriage, it's also up to you as a woman to have a conversation with your doctor about if a progesterone supplement might help you. There could be other factors at play too in your health, pregnant or not, so it's worth having a conversation with your doctor about what could be best for you.