High progesterone can be a sign of a serious illness such as cancer of the ovaries. It can also affect your menstrual cycles and how you feel later in life. And men can have it, too.
Progesterone is a hormone, one of the chemicals that send messages in your body, affecting all of your functions. Higher-than-normal levels will affect men and women differently.
Progesterone in women
In a woman, progesterone and estrogen cooperate to regulate her reproductive system. They need to be in balance.
After an egg is released from an ovary, a gland called the corpus luteum forms and begins making progesterone.
Rising progesterone makes a woman’s temperature go up after ovulation and increases her appetite and energy levels. Progesterone helps sustain the thickening of the lining of her uterus. If the egg isn’t fertilized, the corpus luteum falls apart, progesterone levels fall, and she begins to bleed, or menstruate, shedding the extra tissue in her uterus. Changing progesterone levels may be the reason for the moodiness of pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS).
If an egg is fertilized, she’ll continue to produce the extra progesterone to spur preparations for a baby.
She’ll quickly develop a placenta that will take over the job of producing progesterone, which stays high throughout pregnancy. Progesterone later triggers milk from her breast.
Sometime in her thirties, progesterone levels fall more quickly after ovulation.
What happens if your reproductive hormones are out of balance? According to the Society for Endocrinology, there is “no known serious medical consequences of having too much progesterone.” Some osteopaths and other observers, however, say high progesterone could cause a mild weight gain of five to 10 pounds, a low mood, drowsiness, grogginess, edginess, anxiety, bloating, and low sex drive. In effect, you may feel like you have PMS more of the time or unrelated to your cycle. The weight gain and anxiety or low mood could all get worse.
The cause might be taking too much progesterone as birth control. If you are under significant stress, your progesterone level could rise.
Very high levels of progesterone when you’re not pregnant could indicate ovarian cysts, cancer of the uterus or adrenal glands, or an inherited adrenal problem.
Progestin, a synthetic form of progesterone, was often included in hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for menopause — the purpose is to protect the uterus. HRT may be a necessary, hopefully short-term solution, to a difficult menopause. You may hear about the progesterone creams described as natural on the market, but research has found that they are not effective. This year, scientists concluded that oral HRT may increase the risk of blood clots, but that risk doesn’t apply to patches, creams, gels, and injections.
Progesterone in men
In men, progesterone is produced in the adrenal glands and regulates sperm. If early heart disease runs in a man’s family, he is also more likely to have heart issues. High progesterone is one of the associated signs, early research suggests.
Men are sometimes prescribed progesterone to treat infertility or a prostate condition. But if a man takes too much, he might get fatter around the middle, lose facial hair, and develop breasts. In short, he’ll look older faster. Talk to your doctor to make sure your medication is actually helping you.
August 12, 2020
Janet O’Dell, RN