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Cycle Health

The Zoom In: What Is Progesterone?

What the hormone progesterone does during the menstrual cycle.

2 min read | October 19, 2021

ICYMI: our bodies contain 50 hormones, but two of the leading role hormones in people with periods are estrogen and progesterone. 

Progesterone is known as a female hormone, mainly produced in the ovaries. (Trans-women and men also produce progesterone, but in smaller amounts.) Estrogen, progesterone, and luteinizing hormone all play a part together in initiating pregnancy. High estrogen levels send signals to the brain to produce luteinizing hormone, triggering the release of the egg. Progesterone plays a really important role in maintaining the uterus during the menstrual cycle, as well as maintaining a pregnancy if an egg is fertilized and pregnancy occurs.

Hormones fluctuate during your cycle. Progesterone, estrogen, and luteinizing hormone all are present during your menstrual cycle. During the follicular phase (your period and up until ovulation ), low progesterone levels occur. Then after ovulation, during the luteal phase, they increase as your body prepares for a potential pregnancy.

Progesterone is produced by the old follicle after it releases an egg. When the egg is released, the follicle transforms into the corpus luteum (​​a cluster of cells that forms in an ovary that governs the production of progesterone during early pregnancy) and progesterone levels start to rise. If pregnancy occurs, progesterone levels remain elevated. If not, they will start to lower again. It's primarily this drop in progesterone that triggers the period to begin.

Progesterone is also known as a soporific hormone - in other words, it's a relaxing hormone as it has a mild sedative effect, so you might feel sleepy.

Because progesterone is responsible for creating the perfect environment for an egg to become fertile, it's important that progesterone levels are regular during different times of the cycle. Low progesterone levels sometimes mean irregular periods, lower fertility, and decreased pregnancy chances. Some low progesterone level signs include abnormal uterine bleeding or abdominal pain during pregnancy. Track your progesterone production levels to ensure they are staying regular.

Progesterone plays another part in life with menopause and perimenopause. During perimenopause, our body stops producing as much progesterone, and estrogen levels decline.

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About Author

Your hormones can be complex and unpredictable. That’s why we’re here, on The Regular, to do what’s long overdue - to demystify what’s going on with our reproductive systems, our hormones and our whole cycle.

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