Low Progesterone Levels and You
Low progesterone levels may be a symptom that is harder to see.
This would be true if you do not chart your cycles (meaning observe and record menstrual cycle signs daily – basal body temperature, cervical fluid, and to a lesser extent, cervical position.)
For this reason, low progesterone levels can hide in plain sight for years.
But not anymore!
This article will cover:
- common symptoms and signs of low progesterone levels,
- why progesterone is so important to the menstrual cycle and your overall health, and
- how to add in foods to support this system.
What is Progesterone and Why Do You Need It?
Progesterone is the hormone that is released after you have ovulated.
The remaining part of the follicle that housed the now-released egg is called the corpus luteum.
It is the corpus luteum that is responsible for progesterone production and release.
I find it incredible that such a small and temporary part of the body can have such a significant impact and function.
Our bodies are truly magical!
Progesterone is then responsible for:
- Communicating with the uterine lining to grow and thicken specifically between ovulation and bleeding,
- Causing the three signs of fertility to change – basal body temperature increases as progesterone increases, cervical fluid to dry up pretty quickly after ovulation, and the cervix moves down, hardens, and closes once again.
- Preventing the release of more eggs for the rest of the cycle.
Cool note – progesterone stays high for the majority of pregnancy and this prevents people from getting pregnant while already pregnant. It halts ovulation. It is such a powerful hormone!
If you do not conceive, when the corpus luteum disintegrates, your progesterone levels decrease and your period will start within a few days.
This happens after every ovulation you go through.
Symptoms of Low Progesterone
There are a few things you can look for when checking out your progesterone levels.
Most are related to cycle tracking, so I am going to highly recommend that!
Check out Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler to get started. It’s an incredible book. You will not be disappointed!
Once you have a few cycles charted, you may begin to see the symptoms listed below.
One cycle may not be enough from which to draw conclusions, but 3 or more is very helpful.
Look for similarities and changes throughout. Be your own menstrual detective.
Symptoms/signs of low progesterone can be:
- Short luteal phase – less than 10 days from ovulation to first day of full bleed
- Weak basal body temperature rise after ovulation
- Amenorrhea – absence of period
- Long periods of cervical fluid
- Quality of cervical fluid is poor
- Spotting before your period
- Brown bleeding or spotting after your period
Low progesterone can lead to infertility and miscarriage.
The body needs progesterone to carry and grow new life. Pro-gestation!
A reason your progesterone can be low is because of disproportionately high levels of estrogen – aka estrogen dominance.
To be discussed in a future article.
What Can You Do About Low Progesterone?
You can go to your healthcare provider for tests to have clinical evidence of the deficiency.
One note I want to make here is to make sure your tests are in line with when you ovulate.
Most progesterone tests are given on day 21 of your cycle assuming you ovulated on day 14.
This is not the case with most menstruators.
Not only can this vary from person to person, but it can also vary from cycle to cycle.
This cycle you may ovulate on day 12 and next time it may be day 17, for example.
This is why charting your cycles is such an important choice you can make for your health.
You will get so much information from each chart, each cycle.
If you are not trying to get pregnant and you don’t see a need to be tested, you may want to start off by altering your diet.
Low progesterone is another menstrual symptom that can be helped with nutritional additions, and some removals.
Foods to add to increase low progesterone levels include whole plant foods that contain higher amounts of magnesium, essential fatty acids, B vitamins, and vitamin C:
- Flaxseed oil/flaxseeds; chia seeds
- Spinach, any other dark leafy greens – kale, Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts
- All the berries! Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries…
- Whole grains – millet, buckwheat, teff, barley…
- Bell peppers, sweet potato, rose hips, citrus fruits
- Other ways to add in magnesium – epsom salt soaks, magnesium lotions, magnesium powders into hot water and drink.
Foods to remove or decrease:
- Aspartame – a component of aspartame stimulates the release of prolactin. High prolactin levels can be a reason for short luteal phases, low progesterone.
- Caffeine – this is something you can try and see if it helps. If you find that it makes no difference, add it back in. There is no need to remove stuff that isn’t actually doing anything if it truly brings joy into your life. Everything in moderation!
Low progesterone can have many causes and many symptoms.
By adding in whole foods that will help with the production and function of progesterone, you are going to notice a shift.
Make sure to give yourself a few cycles to notice changes.
If you try for a month and then give up thinking that nothing has changed, you will not be giving your body enough time to adjust.
I suggest trying these recommendations for at least 3 cycles – not months, but full menstrual cycles.
This gives your body plenty of time to shift and adjust.
Low progesterone can be one of many causes of menstrual symptoms, so tracking your symptoms as you move through this journey is key.
Note any changes, good, bad, or neutral, and just keep building on that.
Your body is constantly seeking health and homeostasis.
The above recommendations are supports your body can use to make all of its work easier!
To learn more about other menstrual symptoms, check out these articles:
If you feel like you need personalized guidance from Carly…
We invite you to book a FREE Hormone Clarity Assessment by clicking on the button below!
Yours in plant love,