Thursday, May 17, 2007

Progesterone: A Women's Best Friend During Pregnancy

Infertility, miscarriage and C-sections are fast becoming important topics of discussion for anyone wanting to become pregnant. The rate of infertility, miscarriages and C-sections are at an all time high. Add everyday worry and anxiety to the equation and you will easily see how stress can contribute to these problems.

Stress, as it does in so many areas of our life interferes with the reproductive process and a major cause for infertility and miscarriages. The reason is simple, lack of progesterone.

The word itself, progesterone means “for gestation,” meaning we need this hormone, in its right balance if we want be become pregnant and stay pregnant. Progesterone nourishes the uterine lining in preparation of the implanted fertilized egg. It is progesterone that continual feeds and nourishes the uterus during pregnancy. Unfortunately, constant stress causes a decrease in your progesterone levels.

When you are constantly in that “fight or flight” mode because of stress your adrenal glands will produce additional cortisol and adrenaline. This is a normal bio-chemical process. The problem is that in order to make cortisol, your adrenal glands need progesterone. This causes your progesterone to be used in making your stress hormones as opposed to what it is designed to do, which is support your pregnancy.

The adrenal glands can not make cortisol without progesterone. It is literally a raw material needed by your adrenal glands to make cortisol. It’s often referred to as the ‘progesterone steal’ because your body will steal however much progesterone it needs to make cortisol. This is one of the primary reason some women are having a hard time with infertility and miscarriages, they don’t have enough progesterone available to conceive or maintain a pregnancy.

The body is designed for survival and when you are constantly in that “fight or flight” mode it is more important for the body to run away from the saber-tooth tiger than it is to have a baby. The constant demand for cortisol is going to reduce your levels of progesterone. Inadequate levels of progesterone not only interferes with the reproductive process, but it is another reason so many women struggle with PMS, hot flashes, night sweats, etc…. their progesterone is being stolen away to make cortisol. This whole progesterone steal process causes a deficiency, but also affects the balance of progesterone to estrogen and testosterone.

Supplementing with progesterone (I prefer sublingual progesterone over topical creams) can do wonders for so many women who are struggling with infertility, miscarriages, PMS, hot flashes, night sweats and other hormonal imbalances . Yet I always encourage my patients to identify where the stress is coming from and support those exhausted adrenal glands.

If we merely add progesterone without nourishing those adrenal glands, we are going to always have to supplement with progesterone. But if we strengthen our adrenal glands and manage our stress, we allow the adrenal glands to function the way they are designed to. Most importantly – you can never get your progesterone levels back to normal without first supporting and nourishing those exhausted adrenal glands.

Next time we will discuss how to accurately measure your hormone levels and how to support your progesterone.


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