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How long does it take for progesterone cream to work?

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 3/12/21

how long does it take for progesterone cream to work

Keep reading to learn more about progesterone creams, their effectiveness, and how long it takes for them to work.

If you have low progesterone you may be wondering what you can do to increase your levels. Luckily there are plenty of options, including progesterone creams!

Keep reading to learn more about progesterone creams, their effectiveness, and how long it takes for them to work.

What is progesterone and why is it important?

Progesterone is one of the two main female sex hormones. Also called “the pregnancy hormone,” its main functions are to regulate the menstrual cycle and prepare the uterine lining for implantation after ovulation in the case that fertilization occurs.

During the first phase of your cycle — the follicular phase — progesterone levels are supposed to be low and estrogen is elevated. Then, immediately after ovulation, progesterone rises and remains elevated throughout the luteal phase (the second half of your cycle).

If you get pregnant, your levels should stay elevated to ensure the uterine environment is healthy for the embryo to grow. If you do not conceive, progesterone levels start dropping by the end of the luteal phase, so that your uterus sheds its lining and you get your period.

Although progesterone plays a major part in your cycle and conception, it also plays many other roles throughout your body, including:

  • Increase your mood
  • Relieve perimenopausal symptoms 
  • Boost your energy 
  • Help alleviate insomnia
  • Improve your libido

What causes low progesterone?

When progesterone levels are not adequate post ovulation, you may experience a shorter luteal phase, hormone imbalance (sometimes estrogen dominance), spotting before periods, early miscarriages, or infertility.

Some of the most frequent causes of low progesterone include:

  • Anovulation (usually caused by PCOS)
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Excessive stress that elevates cortisol (the stress hormone)
  • Abnormally high or abnormally low body weight

If you suspect you have low progesterone, we first and foremost recommend testing your levels via a progesterone blood test or PdG testing. From there, you should consult your doctor on the next best course of action.

There are several ways you may try to improve your progesterone levels and luckily, progesterone creams are common and available over-the-counter.

how long does it take for progesterone cream to work

If you suspect you have low progesterone, we first and foremost recommend testing your levels via a progesterone blood test or PdG testing.

What is progesterone cream and why would I use it?

Progesterone cream is a form of hormone replacement therapy, intended to relieve menopausal symptoms. It usually contains bio-identical progesterone and is applied on the skin, in hope of:

  • Reducing hot flashes
  • Diminishing vaginal dryness
  • Improving sleep and mood
  • Increasing libido

Creams were initially marketed to premenopausal and menopausal women, but lack of access to prescription progesterone supplements made creams appealing to women who were trying to conceive and needed to boost their progesterone levels. So far, despite some anecdotal evidence of success, research shows contradictory results concerning the efficiency of progesterone cream for fertility.

First of all, most of the studies on transdermal progesterone cream have been done on menopausal women. This makes it hard to evaluate the necessary dosage needed to sustain a healthy luteal phase and pregnancy.

Second, the skin is a thick barrier, meaning that only a small amount of the cream applied reaches your bloodstream or uterus, where progesterone is needed.

How long does it take for progesterone cream to work?

How long it takes for progesterone creams to work depends on many factors.

The first — and most important — question is: how much progesterone do you need? If your progesterone deficiency is slight, trying an over the counter cream may be a good first step. However, if your body is producing little to no progesterone, a transdermal cream may not be strong enough to solve your problem.

It also depends on the quality of the cream. Since progesterone creams are over-the-counter, they’re not strictly regulated by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means you may have to do your own research to find the best quality products on the market.

As far as efficiency is concerned, there are studies that show no difference in improvement of menopausal symptoms between women who used progesterone cream and those who didn’t.

On the other hand, a study published in 2005 found that women who have been administered progesterone cream in quantities that equaled 40 mg of progesterone daily noticed improvement of menopausal symptoms at their 24- and 48-week check ups. This research suggests it could take several months for progesterone cream to work.

A woman trying to conceive may not have months to wait for the cream to work. If you are trying to conceive and suspect you have low progesterone, we recommend consulting your doctor, who may be able to provide prescription-level progesterone supplements.

Tips for Choosing a Progesterone Cream

If you are interested in trying progesterone cream, here are a few things to consider before purchasing:

  • Progesterone dosage: You first want to make sure the progesterone cream you use has a high enough dose of progesterone. In pharmacies or online you will find creams containing anywhere between 25 to 250 mg/dose. You may want to consult your doctor regarding the best dosage for you.
  • Vitamin E: Make sure your progesterone cream contains vitamin E, which is proven to improve luteal function.
  • Natural ingredients: With more and more progesterone creams on the market, looking as the ingredients can help you assess the quality. Make sure the ingredients are natural and look for the “USP progesterone” on the label.
  • Oils: Progesterone oils may actually be a better alternative to progesterone creams. Like creams oils can be applied directly to the skin but, unlike creams, oils are absorbed better by the skin. They also typically contain higher doses of progesterone than creams. (Note that the previous tips still apply when choosing progesterone oils!)

how long does it take for progesterone cream to work

Progesterone oils may actually be a better alternative to progesterone creams since they are better absorbed by the skin.

Are there other alternatives to naturally raising progesterone levels?

We’re glad you asked — yes, there are!

  • Seed cycling: Seed cycling involves tracking your menstrual cycle and eating certain seeds during different phases of the cycle flax and pumpkin during the follicular phase, and sunflower and sesame during the luteal phase — to promote a hormone balance.
  • Herbals supplements: Some herbals such as vitex, maca, and ashwagandha have been shown to promote a hormone balance and improve progesterone levels. Please talk to your doctor before taking any new supplements.
  • Diet changes: While food does not directly contain progesterone, broccoli, beans, pumpkin and spinach, among others, are known to boost your progesterone production.
  • Prescription supplements: Prescription-level progesterone supplements are often the most effective solution when natural methods fail or in the case of severe progesterone deficiency. If you’re interested in prescription supplements, we recommend consulting your doctor.

Progesterone creams and oils can be effective and may very well be the best solution for you! Just be sure to do your research first!