Just in time for Halloween: Test THEN Treat
Halloween is here! Which means lots of candy, costumes and the famous phrase “trick-or-treat”. How is this all related to progesterone? Frankly, it’s not, but with the “trick-or-treat” of Halloween on the brain, we were inspired by a different, very important idea (albeit, not as fun as dressing up and asking for candy): Test, then treat.
There are tons of fertility supplements on the market today and they can be really effective, IF you are taking the right ones. But how do you know? What if your fertility challenge is low progesterone and you are taking steps to balance estrogen? What if the issue is male factor, but you are sipping away on tea designed to help increase progesterone when it’s not needed?
Rather than blindly spend money on supplements and treatments that may be addressing an issue that may or may not exist, or worse, throw otherwise balanced hormones out of whack...why not test, then treat?
A quick refresher: What is progesterone and why should I care?
Progesterone is the hormone released after ovulation. It prepares the uterus to receive a fertilized egg. Without it, or enough of it, conception is not possible. What’s more, progesterone is low in almost 40% of women, making low progesterone the number one cause of infertility.
Test: How can I tell if I have enough?
There are a couple ways to track progesterone. First, it’s possible to track using basal body temperature tracking. The presence of progesterone creates a slight uptick in temperature, usually 0.5 - 1 degree F. This is a fine method if you are doing general cycle tracking and don’t need to know if your progesterone is above a certain level. While the spike in basal body temperature will tell you if progesterone is present or not, it is possible to see a temperature spike, but still not have sufficient levels of progesterone to support conception.
It’s also possible to monitor progesterone through blood testing, either via mail-in kit or a test at the doctor. This will provide a numeric value of progesterone, but typically only for a single point in time. While a blood test can provide useful information, tracking progesterone over time is important because it must remain elevated long enough to support proper conception.
Proov allows women to track progesterone at home over multiple days. Proov tests work by measuring a urine metabolite of progesterone called Pregnanediol Glucuronide (PdG), which has been shown to correlate the levels in blood. Tests are designed to go positive at 5 ug/ml of PdG in urine, which equates to about 10 ng/ml in blood - the widely accepted minimum threshold needed to support conception.
Treat: What do I do if I don’t have enough?
Don’t get spooked by low progesterone. The great news about low progesterone is that it’s highly treatable. There are many natural ways you can enhance progesterone, including things like simple diet changes, light exercise, or trying to control stress levels (hard, we know, but it can make a real difference!). And since we are really going for it with the Halloween theme, one food that is good for naturally increasing progesterone is, you guessed it, pumpkin!
Seed Cycling is another approach to helping balance hormone levels naturally. The general premise is that you eat specific seeds during the different phases of your cycle to help support the star hormones depending on the phase you’re in. It may seem like hocus pocus, but both co-founders Amy and Ellen seed cycle and it has led to more manageable periods, less headaches and improved mood for them both.
There are also numerous over-the-counter supplements like Premama, Pink Stork, Fertilaid, and more that claim to aid in conception by balancing hormones. However, the term “balance hormones” is broad. And if you don’t know which hormone is out of balance, it is hard to choose the right supplement. For example, some supplements contain vitex or chasteberry. This herb has been shown to improve progesterone levels if they are low. But if progesterone levels are not low, women have reported vitex-containing products to cause them to have irregular cycles. Other supplements can contain diindolylmethane (DIM), which has been shown to reduce estrogen. But if high estrogen is not your problem, it could cause more damage than good. All the more reason to test, then treat!
Finally, we recommend checking out Dr. Jolene Brighton’s Period Repair Kit, which has some great tools for helping balance hormones to increase energy, mood, and libido. If over the counter supplements and lifestyle changes aren’t doing the trick, it might be time to talk to your doctor about prescription supplements.
The great news is that there’s a lot out there that can help with hormone balance. But the key to finding the right solution is knowing the problem first. Which is why we encourage you to test, then treat to make sure the steps you are taking will be most effective in progressing you along in your fertility journey.