Whether you’re trying to conceive or just concerned about balancing your hormones, one of the most important hormones to familiarize yourself with is progesterone. Here at Proov, we’re happy to help! We created the first FDA-cleared test for PdG (pregnanediol-3-glucuronide), the urinary metabolite of progesterone, because we know how important progesterone is.
Progesterone is critical for maintaining the uterine lining to help an embryo successfully implant, as well as helping you get good sleep, regulate mental health, and maintain bone density. You may be wondering, though, how to confirm that your progesterone levels are healthy! To answer that question, we need to look a bit more closely at normal progesterone levels throughout your entire cycle.
Progesterone is critical for maintaining the uterine lining to help an embryo successfully implant.
Progesterone in the Follicular Phase
Your entire menstrual cycle can be broken into two halves-the follicular phase, when a new egg is maturing within a follicle in the ovary, and the luteal phase, when the egg has been released (ovulation) and the empty follicle becomes an entirely new organ called the corpus luteum.
During the follicular phase, which begins on day 1 of your period, you may initially have some slightly elevated progesterone levels during period leftover from the previous cycle, but by a few days into your period, levels are pretty low. During this phase, progesterone isn’t responsible for doing anything anyway, and so your body doesn’t produce any above baseline levels (under 1 ng/mL in blood).
Progesterone in the Luteal Phase
Once an LH surge triggers ovulation, however, it’s progesterone’s time to shine. During ovulation, an egg is released from a follicle in the ovary, and the empty follicle is transformed into the corpus luteum. The corpus luteum is a temporary organ that your body makes every cycle, for the purpose of producing progesterone.
The corpus luteum will begin producing progesterone after ovulation, and levels will rise, reaching their peak 7-10 days later. Progesterone’s key role during the luteal phase is stabilizing the uterine lining and maintaining it so that a newly fertilized egg can successfully implant.
Typically, implantation will occur 7-10 days after ovulation, once the new embryo has traveled down the fallopian tube and into the uterus. That’s why it’s important that progesterone reach maximum levels (2-25 ng/mL) during this time in a healthy, normal cycle.
After the implantation window, progesterone levels will slowly begin to decrease again, destabilizing the uterine lining and preparing you for your period. Unfortunately, the decrease in progesterone contributes to symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, which can be worsened if progesterone levels are low.
Other symptoms of low progesterone to keep an eye out for also tend to manifest in the luteal phase, including spotting before your period and increased anxiety.
Other symptoms of low progesterone to keep an eye out for also tend to manifest in the luteal phase.
How can I test my progesterone levels?
Now that you know what normal progesterone during cycle looks like, how can you compare this to YOUR unique progesterone levels? There are a few ways to test your progesterone and make sure they’re reaching a healthy maximum and not dropping too quickly.
Progesterone blood test: Your doctor may do a blood draw in the clinic, or you may be able to send in a blood sample through a kit. Either way, blood draws are likely to be on day 21 of your cycle (assuming a textbook day 14 ovulation, which isn’t accurate for everyone). Serum levels of at least 5 ng/mL will confirm ovulation.
Proov PdG Testing: With Proov Confirm, you can measure PdG — a metabolite of progesterone that closely matches serum progesterone levels — to confirm successful ovulation. PdG is easily measured using first morning urine, and tested on days 7-10 after ovulation (the implantation window), not just a single day. The Proov Insight App will give you an Ovulation score, giving you individualized information about your PdG levels and the success of your ovulation.
What if my progesterone levels are low?
If you’ve tested your progesterone and discovered that your luteal phase levels aren’t consistent with successful ovulation, though, what next? Fortunately, there are several options to either increase progesterone directly or support improved progesterone production:
- Seed cycling: By eating specific different types of seeds during the follicular and luteal phases of your cycle, you can promote hormone balance and progesterone production.
- Diet and Nutrition: Making sure you’re eating a healthy and well-balanced diet (and that includes eating enough, since your calorie needs actually increase during the luteal phase). You may choose to focus on foods that boost progesterone production, including kale, spinach, beans, pumpkin, or broccoli.
- Evaluate your fitness routine: Over-exercising can be the cause of menstrual cycle and hormonal irregularities, and increases in exercise have been linked to lower progesterone. Make sure you aren’t overdoing it with high intensity exercise, and consider switching to strength training or shorter exercise sessions during the luteal phase.
- Herbal supplements: There are several supplements that can support progesterone production, including ashwagandha, vitex, and maca. Proov Luteal Love is a convenient way to add these to your routine.
- Talk to your medical provider about options: They may be able to prescribe supplemental progesterone or ovulation-inducing medications.