Written by: Dr. Amy Beckley, PhD, Founder and Inventor of the Proov test — the first and only FDA-cleared test to check for successful ovulation at home.
Written on 6/15/22
Have you been having trouble conceiving? A potential cause might be that you have low progesterone levels — an important piece of hormone health.
Also known as the pregnancy hormone, progesterone is a hormone that helps prepare the body to get pregnant and remain pregnant. If you’re not trying for a baby and your progesterone levels are low, you might show other symptoms like spotting, hot flashes, and mood swings.
Let’s dive into these symptoms, plus how to check your progesterone levels and raise these levels if they’re low.
Let's dive into low progesterone symptoms, plus how to check your levels and raise them if they're low.
What is progesterone, and why is it important?
Progesterone is a steroid hormone that a temporary hormone gland called the corpus luteum releases after ovulation (the release of an egg from the ovaries) to prepare the uterine lining by thickening it so that a fertilized egg can successfully implant in it and grow.
If the egg isn’t fertilized, the corpus luteum will break down and stop releasing progesterone 14 days after ovulation. As a result, the uterine lining will break down and shed, leading to menstruation. If pregnancy occurs, the corpus luteum will continue to release progesterone till the 7th to 9th week of pregnancy; then, the placenta will take over and raise progesterone production throughout pregnancy.
Besides the ovaries and placenta, the adrenal gland also produces progesterone.
Progesterone plays a significant role in reproductive function. People who want to have a baby need healthy progesterone levels so the uterus can receive and nurture a fertilized egg to term. Otherwise, they may experience miscarriages, preterm labor, or ectopic pregnancies (pregnancy where the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus).
Progesterone also helps regulate the menstrual cycle and promotes breast milk production after birth, bone health, heart health, immune function, and nervous system function.
4 Low Progesterone Symptoms
Here are four symptoms that tell you that you have low progesterone levels.
Spotting before your period
Spotting is light bleeding from the vagina when you’re not on your period. You wouldn't have to wear a pad or tampon to prevent stains from this bleeding.
If you experience spotting a few days before your period, it could mean that your progesterone levels are low. Here’s why. The body releases progesterone after ovulation to thicken the uterus lining. If the body stops producing enough progesterone sooner than usual, some uterus linings will shed away, causing blood to flow out of the vagina.
Another symptom of low progesterone is mood changes. Evidence suggests that progesterone affects how you process emotions. Low progesterone levels can also contribute to poor mood that comes with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a severe premenstrual symptom that requires medical attention.
Interestingly, a 2022 review on psychiatric symptoms tied to menstrual cycles highlighted that low progesterone levels with high estrogen levels are associated with drinking more alcohol, smoking, and poor body image.
Likewise, a 2021 study observed that women were more likely to be in a low mood, resulting in drinking, when their progesterone levels dropped.
Another 2020 study found that depression symptoms in perimenopausal women were tied to declines in progesterone and estrogen levels.
If you have low progesterone levels, you might also experience hot flashes, a symptom common in premenopausal women experiencing hormonal decline.
Hot flashes occur when the upper parts of the body suddenly become uncomfortably chilly, warm, and sweaty for about five minutes or less.
This condition is a primary menopausal symptom—marked by decreasing progesterone and estrogen levels—affecting more than 80% of premenopausal women and is why many see a doctor during this stage.
Hormone replacement therapy, which involves replacing declining hormones with synthetic estrogen and progesterone, has been shown to relieve hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms.
A 2018 study also found that oral micronized progesterone is safe and works well for reducing hot flashes and night sweats in postmenopausal women.
Progesterone creates an ideal environment in your uterus for pregnancy to develop and continue till birth.
Drops in progesterone levels can cause a fertilized egg to not implant in the uterus, which otherwise would mark the beginning of pregnancy.
So, can you have low progesterone and still be pregnant and what if progesterone is low during pregnancy? You can still get pregnant but low progesterone levels during pregnancy may result in miscarriage or preterm birth.
So if you’re having problems having a baby, it may be due to many reasons, including low progesterone. Going for fertility testing — which usually involves checking your progesterone levels — can show why you’re having trouble conceiving.
Proov Confirm is the first PdG test to check for successful ovulation at home.
How can I test my progesterone levels?
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of low progesterone or are curious about your progesterone levels, you can take a progesterone blood test or a urine PdG (Pregnanediol Glucuronide) test.
However, unlike blood progesterone testing, urine PdG testing is non-invasive, cost-effective, reliable, and more convenient for checking your levels after ovulation. You can take this test at home by ordering a Proov Confirm, the first at-home test that measures PdG to check for successful ovulation.
How can I increase my progesterone levels?
If you check your progesterone levels and the test results show they’re low, what next? You can increase your progesterone levels naturally through:
This practice involves taking flax, pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds in a specific order in the two phases of your menstrual cycle.
Taking 1 tablespoon of flax and pumpkin seeds during the first half of your menstrual cycle may increase estrogen levels. Then rotating to sesame seeds and sunflower seeds after ovulation may raise progesterone levels.
You can increase your progesterone levels by taking certain herbal supplements.
Studies suggest that herbs like chamomile extract, Verbenaceae extract, and licorice-licorice can increase progesterone levels. Other beneficial herbs include maca, ashwagandha, peony, and vitex.
Having a well-balanced diet can promote healthy hormone production. If you’re not already, you can include more nutrient-dense food in your diet like like beans, cabbage, nuts, dark chocolate, kale, cauliflower, low-fat yogurt, eggs, and avocado, which can help improve progesterone levels.
Managing your stress levels may help your body maintain a healthy balance of sex hormones.
Stress is an inevitable part of being alive. However, you can be in control of your stress levels by taking part in activities that help you relax and reduce tension in your body every day.
These activities, which you can describe as self-care, can help reduce stress levels. Some of these activities include journaling, meditating, taking a walk, exercising, playing with your pet, reading a book, listening to music, doing yoga, e.t.c.
Although progesterone is commonly called the pregnancy hormone, low levels won’t only lower a person’s fertility chances but also affect their overall physical and mental health.
Whether or not you’re trying for a baby, it’s always advisable to be proactive about your hormone health by regularly checking your hormone status, like your progesterone levels. Speak with your doctor about your results and the next steps for improving your hormone health and overall well-being.