9 Warning Signs of High Progesterone Levels and How to Treat It

9 Warning Signs of High Progesterone Levels and How to Treat It
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Progesterone is a hormone that plays an important role in your menstrual cycle and pregnancy. It is natural that your levels of progesterone fluctuate during the month as your body prepares for ovulation and menstruation. If you become pregnant, levels of progesterone will be higher during the term of pregnancy.

The correct levels of progesterone must also be in the right balance with estrogen to regulate your menstrual cycle. Abnormally high levels of progesterone can be caused by abnormalities in your menstrual cycle, dysfunction with your adrenal glands, or being under too much stress. Some of the warning signs that your progesterone levels are constantly too high are fatigue, difficulty losing weight, and decreased sex drive.

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Your menstrual cycle and health are regulated by an intricate balance of hormones. Therefore, it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact reasons why you might have too much progesterone. In this article, you will find 9 warning signs that you have progesterone dominance. This can help to know when you need to address the symptoms of high progesterone.

What is Progesterone?

Progesterone is a female sex hormone that regulates the reproductive system. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, progesterone is secreted by the ovaries, placenta (if you are pregnant) and adrenal glands. It is the corpus luteum, which is an endocrine structure that is formed in the ovaries, where progesterone is produced.1

Dr. Beverly Reed, who is an expert in reproductive endocrinology and fertility, says that levels of progesterone are at their highest in the second half of the menstrual cycle. During the luteal phase, which begins after ovulation and ends the day before your next period, progesterone is responsible for a surge of follicle-stimulating hormones to prepare for pregnancy. Just before your next period, estrogen and progesterone levels drop significantly and your period begins.2

What Does Progesterone Do?

The main function of progesterone is connected with reproduction and maintaining pregnancy. The journal Hormone Molecular Biology and Clinical Investigation reports that progesterone assists with implantation. It prepares the uterus lining in preparation for a fertilized egg. If implantation happens, progesterone secretion will be replaced by the placenta during pregnancy.3

The Encyclopedia Britannica says that normal levels of progesterone and estrogen are necessary for ovulation. If the egg becomes fertilized, higher progesterone levels inhibit the release of any more eggs.1

Dr. Joyce King writes in the Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health that progesterone produced by the placenta is also responsible for breast changes during pregnancy. The effect of high levels of progesterone during pregnancy prevents lactation before childbirth. The sharp drop in levels of progesterone after birth triggers milk production.4

What Are Normal and Elevated Progesterone Levels?

If you think that you have some of the warning signs of high progesterone, doctors can arrange for a simple blood test. That will measure the amount of progesterone you have in blood serum. Doctors may check for elevated progesterone levels at different times of your menstrual cycle.

According to OB/GYN Dr. Sarah Marshall, normal levels of progesterone if you are not pregnant are as follows:5

  • Day 1-14 of your menstrual cycle: <1 ng/mL (nanogram per milliliter).
  • Day 15-28 of menstrual cycle: 2-25 ng/mL.

Normal progesterone levels during pregnancy

If you are pregnant, it is normal that your levels of progesterone will be significantly higher. Doctors use the following readings if you have suspected high progesterone symptoms in early pregnancy:

  • 1st trimester: 10-44 ng/mL.
  • 2nd trimester: 19.5-82.5 ng/mL.
  • 3rd trimester: 65-290 ng/mL.

Progesterone levels after the menopause

Progesterone levels in women after the menopause should be the same as during the first phase of the menstrual cycle. If you have passed the menopause, you may show symptoms of high progesterone if you have lab readings above 1 ng/mL.

Progesterone levels in men

Men also have tiny traces of progesterone and these should also be <1 ng/mL.

Causes of Too Much Progesterone

Although most women suffer from symptoms of low progesterone levels, there are some reasons why you can have too much progesterone levels. Let’s look at the most common causes of excessive amounts of this sex hormone.

Changes in menstrual cycle

Changes and abnormalities in your menstrual cycle could be a reason why you show signs of high progesterone.

According to research published in the journal Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, progesterone levels could rise if your period is late. Doctors found that a lack of uniform ovulation during the menstrual cycle could elevate progesterone. If you have a long LH (luteal phase), then there are chances that your progesterone levels could be higher than normal.6

Pregnancy

During pregnancy, levels of progesterone can become as high as 290 ng/mL and still be considered normal.

If you have symptoms of abnormal progesterone levels in early pregnancy, doctors may take a blood test. They will check that progesterone levels are not too low or too high. The Journal of the Turkish-German Gynecological Association reported that progesterone levels can be an indicator of the health of the pregnancy. Low progesterone results could indicate a risk of miscarriage.7

According to researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center, progesterone levels start raising in the 9th week of pregnancy and continue until the 32nd week. Higher than normal levels of progesterone during pregnancy could be an indicator of twins.8

Stress

Stress can create a hormonal imbalance which results in progesterone dominance along with its associated symptoms.

Clinical studies have shown that stress affects the renal glands and secretion of progesterone. Scientists reported in the journal Neurobiology of Stress that stress increases cortisol and also progesterone levels. It was found that progesterone levels started to rise about 40 minutes after subjects were exposed to stress.9

Taking DHEA Supplements

One of the side effects of taking DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) supplements is that they can raise progesterone to abnormally high levels.

According to Dr. Jennifer Robinson on WebMD, some people take DHEA supplements to increase their sex drive, build muscle mass, or help to reduce the risk of certain diseases. However, there is no evidence that DHEA supplements can help to treat heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, or rheumatoid arthritis.10

Information published in the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics reported that DHEA supplements can affect the adrenal glands. This can result in increased progesterone levels and affect the proper function of the ovaries.11

Dysfunction of Adrenal Glands

Any kind of dysfunction with your adrenal glands will affect your hormone levels and may create progesterone dominance.

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For example, the journal Clinical Endocrinology reported that silent nodules on the adrenal glands could result in more progesterone being released.12 Other studies have shown that abnormalities of the adrenal glands have been associated with high progesterone and problems conceiving a baby.13

Adrenal gland dysfunction also causes other symptoms of progesterone dominance like stress, fatigue, and weight gain.

Other Causes of High Progesterone Levels

Dr. Sarah Marshall on WebMD says that some other causes of high progesterone levels could be connected to some serious health conditions.

For example, cancer of the ovaries can result in high progesterone values. Also, cancer of the adrenal glands could be a reason for high progesterone levels in men and women.

A molar pregnancy, which is an abnormal tissue growth in your uterus that develops as a result of a non-viable pregnancy, could also result in showing signs of elevated progesterone levels. The journal Obstetrics and Gynecology reported that a molar pregnancy causes an accumulation of progesterone because there is no fetus. The growth in the uterus triggers symptoms of pregnancy.14

9 Symptoms of High Progesterone

Let’s look in more detail now at the 9 most common warning signs of high progesterone.

1. Difficulty in losing weight

One of the common high progesterone symptoms is finding it difficult to lose weight, or gaining weight unexpectedly.

Clinical research on the effects of weight gain and levels of progesterone have found that high levels increase weight. A study published in the journal Physiology & Behavior found subjects that were treated with progesterone alone to treat symptoms of menopause increased weight. Using a combination of both estrogen and progesterone didn’t result in any weight gain.15

2. Fatigue

Having too much progesterone in your body could result in fatigue and feeling tired all the time.

Although fatigue can be a symptom of a number of underlying health conditions, you will feel tired all the time if progesterone is the dominant hormone.

For example, the journal Neurobiology of Stress found that women with high luteal progesterone suffered from fatigue more than women whose levels were normal. If you feel tired and fatigued in the week before your period is due, it could be a symptom of progesterone dominance.9

3. Feelings of anger

High progesterone levels may cause unexplained feelings of anger or extreme frustration in the 2 weeks before your period.

Although some studies indicate that higher progesterone levels can have the effect of lessening aggressiveness, anger could also be a sign of high progesterone. Gynecologist Dr. Sundström Poromaa says that anger, irritability, and mood changes are all symptoms of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). This occurs in the menstrual cycle when levels of progesterone are at their highest.16

However, some studies have shown the opposite – that higher premenstrual progesterone is actually associated with a reduction in aggressive behavior.17

4. Mood changes

A progesterone dominance in your hormone levels will cause mood changes that may be worse before or after your period.

According to the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, a sign of progesterone dominance is negative mood changes. Researchers discovered that progesterone affects neurotransmitters in the brain. This increase in progesterone can produce symptoms like fear, anxiety, mood swings, and irrational emotions.18

The journal Anesthesia and Analgesia reported that progesterone has a depressant and hypnotic effects effect on the brain. In fact, so much so, that women may require less anesthetic during an operation if their progesterone levels are elevated.19

5. May aggravate IBS symptoms

If you suffer from IBS, you might find that its symptoms are worse when you have too much progesterone.

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Increased progesterone before your period, during pregnancy, or because of an underlying health issue can increase gastrointestinal symptoms. According to the World Journal of Gastroenterology, progesterone and estrogen affect the central nervous system. This can increase stomach pain in women and bloating, and cause diarrhea and excessive wind.20

If you suffer from IBS, you might find some benefit from taking probiotics regularly, or enteric-coated peppermint oils can help to relieve IBS symptoms naturally.

6. Decreased sex drive

Decreased sex drive is one of the side effects of too much progesterone.

The journal BMC Women’s Health reported on a number of changes to a woman’s sexual desire that are connected with higher progesterone levels. For example, it was noted that women sleep more and have sex less when their progesterone levels are elevated.21

However, the study noted some positives in relationships during the high progesterone luteal phase. One of these was that women report stronger commitment to relationships when their progesterone increases. Many even reported better interactions with work colleagues.21

7. Increased appetite and emotional eating

High progesterone levels could cause you to have a more appetite and increase the tendency for “emotional eating.”

One of the signs of high progesterone already mentioned is difficulty in losing weight due to hormonal imbalances. However, the tendency to eat more could make it even harder to shed excess pounds quickly.

Researchers examined the relationship between the symptoms of high progesterone and emotional eating. They found that emotional eating peaked around the same time as progesterone peaked in the menstrual cycle. They found that lowering elevated progesterone levels helped to decrease the desire for high-fat food and have binge eating episodes.22

8. Stress and increased anxiety

As well as creating mood swings and feelings of frustration, excess progesterone can also cause more stress.

Stress can both cause excess levels of progesterone and be a side effect of too much progesterone. Studies have shown that there is a relationship between high progesterone and higher levels of stress-related cortisol hormone.9

However, some studies also point to the fact that if you have low progesterone, raising progesterone can help to alleviate some stress. A study published by the University of Michigan found that increasing progesterone helped to reduce stress in some cases. Women felt more inclined to help others and it was easier to bond with others. It was also noted that strong relationships can also help to increase progesterone.22

9. May increase pain sensitivity

An increase in pain sensitivity is another of the symptoms of too much progesterone.

Hormones play a complex role in how the brain interprets sensations of pain from its neurotransmitters. For example, the journal Reviews in Pain reports that during pregnancy when progesterone levels are at their highest, some women experience a reduction in some painful conditions. However, other types of pain are more pronounced in pregnancy, namely lower back pain and temporomandibular joint disorders.23

Testing for Elevated Progesterone Levels

The easiest way to know for sure if you have progesterone dominance is to have a blood test to check your serum progesterone levels.

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Dr. Sarah Marshall on WebMD says that you have to stop taking birth control pills and estrogen or progesterone-containing medicines at least 4 weeks before the blood test. Also, the time of the month will influence your progesterone hormone levels.

You also have to tell your doctor when the first day of your last menstrual period was. Usually, around about day 20 of your menstrual cycle is the best time to test for signs of too much progesterone.5

How to Treat High Progesterone Symptoms

What happens if results show that your progesterone levels are too high and above normal for your condition?

Here are some ways to help treat the symptoms of high progesterone.

Reduce or cut out progesterone supplements

First, it’s important to reduce or stop taking medication that contains progesterone. This includes over-the-counter DHEA supplements. Your doctor will be able to advise you on the best way to reduce any birth control pills or other hormone medication that you are taking.

Manage stress

Because high progesterone symptoms could mean that you are under a lot of stress, it’s important to relieve stress and anxiety naturally. Here are some ways to do this that are mentioned in my articles on natural remedies for stress and the best essential oils for stress and anxiety.

Ginger. Increasing ginger in your diet can help to alleviate symptoms of stress during times of high progesterone levels.

The journal ISRN Obstetrics and Gynecology reported that ginger is effective in alleviating many PMS symptoms in the luteal phase. Ginger can help reduce the severity of mood, reduce pain, abdominal cramping, and nausea before your period.24

Chamomile. Taking chamomile may help to relieve stress and anxiety and thus help lessen elevated progesterone signs.

According to the journal Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, chamomile has an antidepressant effect and can help treat mild symptoms of anxiety.25 So, a refreshing cup of chamomile tea can help you feel more relaxed and less stressed.

Bergamot essential oil. Inhaling bergamot essential oil or using it in a massage oil can help to reduce signs of stress.

For example, the journal Evidence-Based Complementary Medicine reported that bergamot aromatherapy spray can help reduce stress in humans. Inhaling bergamot oil helped to lower heart rates and blood pressure and increase the brain’s ability to cope with stressful situations.26

Regulate menstrual cycle

It’s also important to regulate your menstrual cycle to help balance levels of progesterone and estrogen in the follicular phase and the luteal phase.

One way to do it is to take cinnamon supplements. The journal Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology reported that cinnamon helped treat women with polycystic ovary syndrome. The cinnamon supplementation helped improve the regularity of the menstrual cycle.27

Check for thyroid dysfunction

Another way to address issues associated with levels of progesterone that are too high is to check the health of your thyroid.

The Journal of Human Reproductive Sciences reported that thyroid dysfunction is one cause of some menstrual abnormalities. Researchers have also found that the thyroid plays a vital role in the production of both progesterone and estradiol (estrogen).28

It’s important to know the top signs of a thyroid disorder to help keep your hormones in fine balance. You can also find out how to improve the function of low thyroid (hypothyroidism) naturally.

When to See a Doctor

If you have abnormalities with your menstrual cycle like spotting before or after your period or you start to have long menstrual cycles, you should see your doctor. Also, if you have any of the signs of high progesterone levels, you should arrange a simple blood test.

Read my other related articles:

Medical Sources

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  2. NCBI. Normal menstrual cycle and the control of ovulation.
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  5. WebMD. Progesterone.
  6. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2014; 12: 69.
  7. J Turk Ger Gynecol Assoc. 2013; 14(2): 68–71.
  8. URMC. Progesterone.
  9. Neurobiol Stress. 2016 Jun; 3: 96–104.
  10. WebMD. DHEA Supplements.
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  15. Physiol Behav.1989 Aug;46(2):273-8.
  16. Medscape. Progesterone, anxiety affect premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
  17. Biol Psychol.2012 Dec;91(3):376-82.
  18. Front Neurosci. 2014; 8: 256.
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  21. BMC Women’s Health. 2010; 10: 19.
  22. J Abnorm Psychol. 2013 Feb; 122(1): 131–137.
  23. ScienceDaily. Feeling close to a friend increases progesterone.
  24. ISRN Obstet Gynecol. 2014; 2014: 792708.
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