Women's Health

What Are the Benefits of Progesterone For Menopause?

Menopause can be full of changes, but it doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. Learn more about how hormones like progesterone can help.
Dr. Nayan Patel
PharmD

Menopause can be a challenging time for many women. It marks the end of the reproductive years and often brings with it a host of physical and emotional changes. 

As a result, many women turn to bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) to help ease their symptoms. One of the key hormones used in HRT is progesterone, a hormone that has a multitude of benefits for women’s brain health, bone health, skin health and more - especially during and after menopause. 

How Do Hormones Fluctuate During Menopause?

Hormones are the chemical messengers in our bodies that control a number of essential functions, such as metabolism, growth, and reproduction. During a woman's reproductive years, her ovaries produce three primary hormones: estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. These hormones are responsible for regulating menstrual cycles and preparing the body for pregnancy.

When women enter menopause, the ovaries stop producing these hormones naturally. As a result, women may experience a variety of symptoms related to the decline in hormones, including:

  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Decreased libido
  • Mood swings
  • Weight gain

These symptoms may feel uncomfortable, but there are ways to find relief and regain your quality of life. By replacing these depleted hormones in the body, such as with bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, it’s possible to regain balance of mind and body, symptom-free.

What Exactly Is Progesterone?

Progesterone is a female sex hormone that helps prepare the uterus for fertilization and maintain a healthy pregnancy. In premenopausal women, progesterone peaks during the second half of the menstrual cycle and is produced in the ovaries.

In postmenopausal women, progesterone is produced by the adrenal glands. After menopause, progesterone levels decrease significantly, which can lead to an imbalance of other hormones in the body.

Is Progestin the Same Thing as Progesterone?

A common misconception is that progestin is the same as progesterone, but this is not true. Progestin is a synthetic version of progesterone found in synthetic HRT, often in combination with other hormones. 

Progestin is not a bioidentical hormone. While progestin is similar to progesterone, only bioidentical progesterone can accurately replicate the structure of natural progesterone. Nurse Practitioner, Brittany Meeker described the difference as, “Night and day,” proclaiming that, “progestin is a synthetic form of progesterone. It's very different from the natural progesterone that we prescribe. And it really doesn't even have the same chemical structure within your body. You can find progestin in birth controls. and it actually depletes your natural regulation and production of progesterone, the hormone that we want. 

When it comes to natural progesterone in BHRT which has a chemical structure created from wild yams by pharmacists or chemists, they're able to mimic that same chemical structure, which is why it's bioidentical, to mimic progesterone to increase those levels naturally.

They are absolutely the complete opposite, and they do the opposite things when it comes to outcomes. Women on synthetic progestin often experience acne, bloating. breast tenderness, depression, hair loss, and headaches because it's synthetic and depletes other hormones in the body.”

So, Why Is Progesterone Important After Menopause?

While progesterone plays an important role in fertility for premenopausal women, imbalances in progesterone can contribute to some of the uncomfortable symptoms experienced in menopause. Luckily, taking progesterone in your hormone replacement treatment plan can help make the symptoms of menopause and postmenopause more manageable.

1. Bone Health

Women in menopause are at a higher risk of developing bone loss and fractures. Research shows that progesterone plays a crucial role in bone health by promoting a healthy balance of bone-building cells. 

2. Sleep Quality

Sleep disturbances are a common complaint among women during menopause. Progesterone can have a calming effect and promote deep sleep by enhancing the action of GABA, a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation. 

Meeker explains, “lack of sleep, and no sleep is the first tail sign that something is off, because your body should be in a relaxed state to allow you to sleep.” Taking progesterone before bed can improve sleep quality and reduce the frequency of waking up during the night. 

3. Brain Function

Estrogen is often associated with cognitive function, but recent studies show that progesterone also plays a crucial role in brain health. Dr. Bimisa Augustin, nurse Practitioner for Thrivelab has seen, “patients that have actually come off of their anti-anxiety medications just because their progesterone was low.”

Progesterone has neuroprotective effects and can help prevent brain cell damage caused by tension and oxidative stress. It can also enhance the action of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which are crucial for memory and cognitive performance.

4. Hormonal Balance

Progesterone is also important for ensuring hormonal balance in the body. When estrogen and progesterone are in balance, they can help reduce symptoms like hot flashes, mood changes, and fatigue. This is why taking a combination of estrogen and progesterone via HRT can be more effective than taking either hormone on its own.

5. Skin Health

During menopause, the skin loses its elasticity and becomes thinner due to a decrease in collagen and elastin production. Progesterone can support collagen production and help improve skin elasticity, reduce wrinkles, and promote skin hydration. 

6. Libido Boost

Low libido is by far one of the most common complaints from women during menopause. While this symptom is frustrating, remember that it’s usually just a sign of hormonal imbalance.

Progesterone HRT can enhance libido by increasing testosterone production and boosting arousal levels. It can also increase vaginal lubrication and help reduce pain during intercourse. In one study, women who took progesterone showed an increase in sexual desire compared to those who did not take it.

7. Stress Relief

Progesterone can help reduce cortisol, the main stress hormone in our bodies. Long-term exposure to elevated cortisol (known as chronic stress) can lead to a variety of health problems, including anxiety and digestive issues. Working to balance your progesterone isn’t just about addressing current symptoms — it can also help prevent the consequences of unaddressed stress.

8. Weight Management

Weight gain is a common symptom of menopause, and progesterone may help address it. Progesterone plays a role in fat metabolism and can help regulate appetite, energy levels, and cravings. It also helps to regulate insulin, which can help prevent weight gain. 

9. Heart Health

Progesterone can also help to protect heart health. It can improve endothelial function (the inner lining of the blood vessels) and reduce tension, which can reduce the risk of heart disease. Progesterone can also help support healthy cholesterol levels, which is another factor that plays into heart health.

10. Mood Regulation

Finally, progesterone can help to improve mood and reduce feelings of sadness. This is because the hormone can help to increase levels of serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood and feelings of well-being. 

Who Should Not Use Progesterone?

Progesterone is generally well tolerated and safe for most women, but it's not suitable for everyone. Women with a history of breast cancer, liver disease, or stroke should consult with a doctor about the risks before taking progesterone. Progesterone can also interact with certain medications and supplements, so it's important to discuss any other treatments you're taking with your doctor before starting progesterone treatment.

How Can You Start Using Progesterone?

If you're interested in trying progesterone BHRT to help ease your menopause symptoms, the first step is to talk to a healthcare professional. At Thrivelab, our medical team of clinicians and hormone experts are prepared to answer your questions and create a treatment plan that can help you reduce your symptoms and regain control of your life.

We understand how overwhelming navigating menopause can be, but with our help, you don't have to do it alone. Take the first step and book a 45-minute appointment with our team today.  

Treating Menopause Symptoms with Bioidentical Progesterone

Menopause is a natural part of a woman's life, but it can be challenging to live with. Luckily, hormone replacement therapy can help address the uncomfortable symptoms of menopause, thanks to the help of progesterone.

From regulating the menstrual cycle to supporting bone health, reducing hot flashes, and boosting libido, the benefits of progesterone after menopause are clear. If you're experiencing symptoms of menopause, speak with your healthcare provider about whether BHRT and progesterone are right for you.

References

  1. Hormones | Endocrine Glands | MedlinePlus
  2. Hormone therapy: Is it right for you? | Mayo Clinic 
  3. Progesterone: Natural Function, Levels & Side Effects | Cleveland Clinic 
  4. Menopause and osteoporosis | Better Health Channel
  5. Progesterone Modulates Neuronal Excitability Bidirectionally | PMC 
  6. Progesterone and the Nervous System/Brain | Women in Balance Institute 
  7. Estrogen: Hormone, Function, Levels & Imbalances | Cleveland Clinic
  8. 205: Progesterone maintains a balance in collagen metabolism while estrogen drives production in cervical stromal cells | AJOG 
  9. Increasing women’s sexual desire: The comparative effectiveness of estrogens and androgens | PMC 
  10. Chronic Stress > Fact Sheets |  Yale Medicine 
  11. Progesterone increases blood glucose via hepatic progesterone receptor membrane component 1 under limited or impaired action of insulin | PMC 
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