Written by: Dr. Amy Beckley, PhD, Founder and Inventor of the Proov test — the first and only FDA-cleared test to confirm successful ovulation at home.
Written on 10/30/20
Updated on 4/1/21
Medically reviewed by: Dr. Gary Levy, a Board-Certified Reproductive Endocrinologist and OBGYN. Dr. Levy has been the IVF director of a busy, academic, fertility practice. He specializes in complex endocrine and reproductive cases. He is a prolific researcher and author publishing dozens of articles in many prestigious peer-reviewed journals. He also serves as Chief Medical Officer at Fertility Cloud, a comprehensive virtual fertility care platform that helps couples with fertility testing and treatment, all from the comfort of their own homes.
It’s no secret that our hormones impact many parts of our bodies and lives. From our energy levels to our mood, our hormones can make us feel our best, or sometimes our worst.
Sometimes, hormone imbalances can lead to changes in body weight. In fact, some women claim hormones like progesterone cause weight gain! Let’s dive in to find out the real effects of hormones on our weight.
How do our hormones affect our weight
From a young age, our hormones enact the changes that bring us from young girls to women. During puberty, estrogen is responsible for depositing body fat to our chests, hips, thighs, and butts. It is common for young women to gain about 15 pounds during puberty.
After puberty, our hormones need to stay balanced to promote a healthy cycle each month. Imbalances in hormones can lead to other issues outside of the reproductive system, including unexplained weight gain.
Imbalances in hormones can lead to other issues outside of the reproductive system, including unexplained weight gain.
Does progesterone cause weight gain?
Weight gain is complicated and can often be attributed to many different factors. Many women know that gaining weight could be a potential side effect of birth control, and this may lead to thinking progesterone can cause the same!
Progesterone itself likely does not cause weight gain. However, changes in hormone levels throughout your cycle can affect your appetite and make it feel as though you may be gaining weight.
During the first half of your cycle, estrogen inhibits food intake and your hunger levels may be lower than normal. Then after ovulation occurs progesterone rises, boosting your metabolism and increasing your appetite. So while progesterone itself doesn’t directly cause weight gain, it does increase your hunger levels which may make you feel like you’re eating more and therefore gaining weight.
While progesterone doesn’t directly cause weight gain, it does increase your hunger levels which may make you feel like you’re eating more and therefore gaining weight.
But progesterone is just a small player in hormone balance and weight management. There are other hormone imbalances that may cause weight gain.
Low progesterone can lead to weight gain
A hormone imbalance, such as low progesterone, could potentially lead to weight gain as imbalances between estrogen and progesterone are one of the emerging causes of obesity.
Healthy levels of progesterone support the thyroid which produces hormones to regulate your metabolism, or how quickly food is used for energy. If the thyroid is not supported and therefore cannot produce sufficient levels of hormones, your metabolism will slow down, meaning less food is burned for energy. Eating more food than you burn leads to weight gain.
Sometimes, low progesterone can be a sign of estrogen dominance. This is because estrogen and progesterone must always stay balanced. So when estrogen levels abnormally high in comparison to progesterone levels, progesterone can appear low.
If estrogen dominance is the cause of low progesterone, you could be at a higher risk of weight gain. As we mentioned earlier, estrogen is responsible for depositing more fat onto different parts of your body. If you don’t have enough progesterone present to balance out the effects of excess estrogen, you may retain more fat cells than normal.
If you don’t have enough progesterone present to balance out the effects of excess estrogen, you may retain more fat cells than normal.
Unexplained weight gain may be a sign of an underlying hormone imbalance
If you are not losing weight despite burning more calories than you’re consuming, you may be experiencing a hormone imbalance. As we mentioned above, disparities in the balance between progesterone and estrogen can cause weight gain.
Additionally, women with hormone imbalance conditions such as PCOS may experience weight gain. Women with PCOS have excess amounts of androgens (or male sex hormones) that can cause hormone imbalances, irregular cycles, and weight retention.
Women with PCOS also may be insulin resistant. Insulin is the hormone that regulates your blood sugar. If you are resistant to insulin, your blood sugar remains high which can lead to weight gain.
But what about progesterone birth control?
You may have heard that progestin-only (synthetic progesterone) birth control can cause weight gain. Women take progestin-only birth control for a variety of reasons, the most common being that they cannot take estrogen. If you have concerns about your birth control, we recommend consulting your doctor.
While many young women claim to have gained weight on progestin-only birth control, the scientific evidence is conflicting. A recent study found that weight gain on progestin-only birth control varies vastly between women and their type of birth control (IUD vs. implant). So, it’s important to work with your doctor to find the birth control that best works for you — regardless of the risk of weight gain.
How can I prevent hormonal weight gain?
As we saw, weight gain can be (but is not always) the result of a greater hormone imbalance. If you are eating clean and exercising regularly but still not losing weight, testing your hormones may reveal insight into unexplained weight gain.
Of course, you should always consult your doctor if you are concerned about unexplained weight gain. He or she will be able to run comprehensive hormone tests that can give insight into an existing hormone imbalance.
Sometimes, at-home testing options can be a good place to start for more information on your cycle and hormones. For example, in a healthy, balanced cycle an egg will be released and post-ovulatory hormones (progesterone or PdG — progesterone metabolite) will remain adequately elevated for a long enough period of time.
This is referred to as “successful” ovulation. If progesterone or PdG levels drop too soon after ovulation, this could be a sign of a hormone imbalance, in which case we recommend consulting your doctor.
Luckily, you can confirm successful ovulation with Proov! Proov is the first and only FDA-cleared PdG test kit for ovulation confirmation. Testing PdG levels with Proov on days 7-10 past peak fertility confirms that successful ovulation has in fact occurred.
Proov is the first and only FDA-cleared PdG test kit to confirm successful ovulation.
While progesterone may not directly cause weight gain, a greater hormone imbalance can lead to unexplained weight gain. Ensuring your hormones are balanced can help you live a healthier, happier life!