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 3/2/21
Progesterone is a critical piece of the pregnancy puzzle, but unfortunately low progesterone is entirely too common.
Today we’re talking about our favorite hormone: progesterone! As you know, progesterone is a critical piece of the pregnancy puzzle — without enough progesterone following ovulation, it can be harder to get pregnant.
Unfortunately, low progesterone is entirely too common. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to naturally increase your progesterone levels! Keep reading to learn more.
What is progesterone?
First, you might ask, what is progesterone? Progesterone is a female reproductive hormone produced after ovulation occurs by the empty follicle (also known as the corpus luteum).
During the first half of your cycle, estrogen thickens the uterine lining. Then, during the second half of your cycle, progesterone stabilizes the thickened lining and makes it “sticky” enough to receive an embryo. Progesterone plays an integral role in pregnancy as it also creates a healthy uterine environment where an implanted embryo can thrive.
In order to allow for the best possible chance at conception, progesterone needs to rise to an adequate level after ovulation and remain elevated for several days. If progesterone levels drop too soon or not enough progesterone is present, it can be more difficult to successfully conceive.
In order to allow for the best chance at conception, progesterone needs to rise to an adequate level after ovulation and remain elevated for several days.
How do I know if my progesterone is low?
Understanding where your progesterone levels stand is key when trying to conceive. There are a few ways to test for low progesterone.
The first is a serum progesterone blood test. These tests are performed by your doctor on day 21 of your cycle, about 7 days after ovulation. Progesterone blood tests can confirm ovulation and give an exact progesterone measurement to show if your levels are low.
However, since progesterone blood tests may not always be the most accurate way to test for low progesterone issues for two reasons.
First, these tests assume that every woman ovulates on day 14 of their cycle. This is not always accurate, as women can have cycles from anywhere between 21 and 35 days in length. If you ovulate even a day before or after cycle day 14, your blood test may give you an inaccurate assumption about your progesterone levels.
Additionally, studies have shown that serum progesterone is released into the bloodstream in pulses, meaning it is subject to drastic fluctuations. In fact, serum progesterone levels can fluctuate up to 8 times in just 90 minutes. This means that testing at 8 am versus 2 pm could give you very different results.
PdG (Pregnanediol Glucuronide) testing is a non-invasive alternative to progesterone blood tests. PdG is a urine metabolite of progesterone and PdG levels in first morning urine show an average of all progesterone levels from the previous day. Because of this, PdG is not subject to the same fluctuations as serum progesterone.
PdG tests are designed to turn positive when a certain amount of PdG is present in urine. While a single positive PdG test confirms ovulation, you can test your PdG levels for multiple days in a row to ensure your levels stay elevated throughout the luteal phase.
How do I increase progesterone naturally?
If your progesterone blood test or PdG tests show that your levels may be low, there are several natural methods for increasing them. Of course, we always recommend consulting your doctor if you have any concerns.
Without further adieu, here are some of our favorites!
1. Diet changes
Diet and proper nutrition plays a key role in our health and can especially be helpful in boosting progesterone. While our food doesn’t naturally contain progesterone, there are several foods that can promote progesterone production, including:
- Brussel sprouts
- Whole grains
While our food doesn’t naturally contain progesterone, there are several foods that can promote progesterone production, including brussel sprouts.
2. Herbal supplements
Herbal supplements can also be used to treat low progesterone. There are several herbs that can help such as vitex (chaste tree berry), maca and ashwagandha. It is best to consult with your doctor before proceeding with any supplements to confirm they are the best option for you and your health.
Vitex works to stimulate the secretion of luteinizing hormone (LH) from the brain, which then stimulates the ovaries to produce progesterone.
Maca is a “hormonal adaptogen,” which means it will adjust to your body’s needs and help to naturally produce hormones in your body. Studies have indicated that women who take a maca supplement will experience an increase in progesterone over time.
Ashwagandha is another adaptogen that can improve the production of progesterone levels. Ashwagandha helps your body deal with stress and (as you’ll see below) high levels of stress can inhibit progesterone production.
3. Seed Cycling
Seed cycling is a natural method of promoting hormone balance. This involves eating certain seeds during different phases of your cycle to boost the production of estrogen and progesterone.
During the first half of your cycle (the follicular phase), you should eat 1 tablespoon each of flax and pumpkin seeds every day to promote estrogen healthy levels. Then after ovulation — during the luteal phase — you’ll switch to eating 1 tablespoon each of sunflower and sesame seeds every day to boost progesterone.
There are tons of easy ways to integrate seeds into your diet, like adding them to smoothies or sprinkling them on salads or oatmeal. If you’re looking to mix it up, you can get Proov founder Amy’s Seed Bites recipe here!
4. Stress management
We know — stress management is easier said than done. But stress can actually harm your progesterone levels.
Stress triggers the production of cortisol, the stress hormone. If you are overly stressed and your body needs more cortisol, the adrenal gland will steal other, less vital hormones to create additional cortisol.
Progesterone is one of the first to be transformed into cortisol since it is not a hormone necessary to survive. This means the more stressed out your body is, the more likely cortisol production will result in low progesterone.
6. Maintain a healthy body weight
It is important to maintain a healthy body weight as abnormally low or abnormally high fat levels can affect the production of progesterone and your overall hormone balance.
Fat cells produce estrogen, so an abnormally high amount of fat cells may result in estrogen dominance. Estrogen dominance can actually lead to low progesterone, as the two hormones need to remain balanced.
On the other hand, an abnormally low amount of fat cells can cause your body to think you’re in a survival mode. When this happens, your body uses nutrients and resources to keep you alive rather than produce reproductive hormones.
7. Prescription medication
While prescription progesterone supplements are not always natural, they are a great option if you have the natural solutions aren’t working. If you’re interested in prescription strength supplements, we recommend consulting your doctor.
After trying different methods of naturally increasing your progesterone levels, be sure to test your levels again through a blood (serum) test or a PdG test to see how they have improved. If a specific method isn’t working, you’ll be able to see that sooner rather than later and know to make new changes.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to increase progesterone naturally!