Warning Signs of Low Progesterone and What to Do About It

Warning Signs of Low Progesterone and What to Do About It

Progesterone is an important hormone which is essential for a woman’s fertility and maintaining a healthy pregnancy. The menstrual cycle is dependent on a delicate balance of hormones, mainly progesterone and estrogen, which fluctuate during the monthly cycle. If estrogen levels are too high, this can result in low levels of progesterone, which can affect a woman’s reproductive health.

The symptoms of low progesterone levels in women are irregular periods, higher sex drive, lumpy breasts, spotting before the period, and premenstrual syndrome. Low progesterone levels also affect a woman’s chance of getting and staying pregnant.

Being able to naturally increase levels of progesterone can help prevent much of the discomfort that is associated with an irregular menstrual cycle. Increasing low levels of progesterone can also increase the chances of conceiving. Higher progesterone levels also help maintain a healthy pregnancy and prevent miscarriage.

A simple blood test can check your level of progesterone. However, there are some signs of low progesterone levels that you may already be experiencing.

Before looking at the common symptoms of low progesterone, let’s look at the role progesterone plays in maintaining a healthy reproductive system.

What is Progesterone and What Does It Do?

Progesterone is a sex hormone that is produced in the ovaries, the placenta, and the adrenal glands. Progesterone is needed to create the proper environment for conception and maintain a healthy full-term pregnancy.

According to Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology from the New York School of Medicine, Dr. Steven R. Goldstein, progesterone is excreted in the second half of the menstrual cycle. It builds up the wall of the uterus making it ready to receive a fertilized egg. If implantation doesn’t occur, progesterone levels drop and the lining of the uterus breaks down and menstruation occurs.1

If you become pregnant, the placenta will continue to produce enough levels of progesterone and estrogen to stop ovulation during pregnancy.

The Symptoms of Low Progesterone

A hormonal imbalance can be caused by a number of reasons. Read on to find out the main symptoms of a progesterone deficiency and what you can do to increase levels of progesterone.

Difficult to get pregnant

If you have low progesterone levels after ovulation, you will most likely find it difficult to get pregnant.

According to the University of Maryland, around about the middle of our cycle, progesterone and estrogen levels increase which prepare the uterus for a fertilized egg. If no implantation occurs, then progesterone levels drop and the endometrial lining is shed during menstruation. However, hormonal imbalances involving progesterone can interfere with ovulation.2

The journal Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management found that increasing progesterone levels also increases a woman’s chances of conceiving, even if she already has regular periods.3

If you have low levels of progesterone, your uterine lining may shed too quickly before implantation can occur.

If you have been trying to conceive for several months and have been unsuccessful, you should have your progesterone levels checked.

Difficult to stay pregnant

One of the symptoms of low levels of progesterone is difficulty in staying pregnant. When fertilization occurs, progesterone levels should increase in the body for a healthy pregnancy. If this doesn’t happen, the uterine lining could break down resulting in a miscarriage or spontaneous abortion.

A study published in the journal Current Opinion in Obstetrics and Gynecology reported that progesterone supplementation is often used to prevent recurring miscarriages. However, because of the complexities of the interaction between hormones, it is difficult to recommend an optimal dose to increase progesterone levels.4

Another study on the use of progesterone in preventing miscarriages found that progesterone supplementation doesn’t prevent all miscarriages. Dr. Arri Coomasasamy, the author of a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, said that increasing progesterone levels can help to prevent miscarriage in women with early pregnancy bleeding. There are also no negative effects on babies in women who undergo progesterone supplementation to prevent miscarriage.5

Abdominal pain and bleeding during early pregnancy

If you experience abdominal pain or spotting during pregnancy, it could be a sign of low progesterone levels. Abdominal pain and vaginal spotting can be signs that there is not enough progesterone to keep the endometrial lining from shedding.

As the previous references have already mentioned, low progesterone levels can signal for the uterine wall to break down. This can cause abdominal cramping, pain, and vaginal bleeding.

According to the Nigerian Medical Journal, mild to moderate vaginal bleeding could be the first sign of a threatened miscarriage. Increasing levels of progesterone can help to reduce the symptoms and the risk of miscarriage.6

Short menstrual cycles

One sign that your progesterone levels are too low is having short menstrual cycles. Menstrual cycles that are short are classed as around 26 days or less – counting from the first day of your period to the start of your next one. Short menstrual cycles are common in women who are approaching the menopause because progesterone levels drop. However, younger women can also experience short menstrual cycles.

The Journal of Clinical Endocrinol Metabolism found that lower concentrations of progesterone concentrations contributed to short menstrual cycles. During these short cycles, there is a risk of anovulation (this is when no ovulation occurs), however, you may still have menstrual bleeding.7

Irregular periods

A progesterone deficiency can also be one of the reasons that your periods are irregular. Irregular periods are ones that vary in length from month to month. There are, of course, many reasons for your monthly cycle to be irregular, and having low progesterone levels is one reason.

Dr. Nivin Todd on WebMD explains that abnormal fluctuations in your body’s levels of progesterone and estrogen can disrupt the regularity of your period.8

Spotting before period

If you notice spotting before your period or light vaginal bleeding after your period, it could be an indicator of low progesterone.

When discussing the importance of progesterone for women’s reproductive health, the journal Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management found that progesterone deficiency can cause vaginal spotting. The journal reported that low levels of progesterone can cause abnormal uterine bleeding.3


Low levels of progesterone in your body can cause your thyroid to become underactive. The symptoms of hypothyroidism include extreme fatigue, depression, mood swings and irregular menstruation.

According to a study published in the journal Clinical Endocrinology, your thyroid function is closely related to progesterone levels in your body. The researchers discovered that increasing progesterone levels also cause the thyroid to produce more thyroid hormone.9

Apart from increasing levels of progesterone, there are other ways to help naturally treat an underactive thyroid.

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

Hormonal imbalances, including a progesterone deficiency, can aggravate symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. PMS causes mood swings, depression, stomach spasms, and bloating. A severe form of premenstrual syndrome is Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD).

The Harvard Review of Psychiatry reported that a deficiency in progesterone levels interacts with neurotransmitters in the brain and causes mood changes. In fact, they found that increasing progesterone levels rather that estrogen levels, helps to reduce the experience of mood swings.10

To help ease the symptoms of PMS, you can find helpful advice and natural treatments in my article on the many ways to beat PMS naturally.


Another symptom of having too little progesterone hormone is anxiety. Feelings of anxiety are also characteristic of PMDD and can be difficult to deal with when the body is going through hormonal turbulence. Anxiety is also one of the causes of white discharge before period.

Dr. Sundström Poromaa on MedScape.com said that low progesterone plays a major role in PMDD and causes its related symptoms like anxiety, irritability, depression, and anger.11 A study carried out by  Dr. Poromaa found that progesterone levels in women can make them prone to feelings of anxiety.12

One great way to combat feelings of anxiety during your menstrual cycle is to use some of my natural remedies for anxiety and stress.

Increased sex drive

It may surprise many to find out that low levels of progesterone are connected with increased sex drive. This increase in libido is connected with your monthly menstrual cycle.

A study published by the University of California Santa Barbra found that estrogen and progesterone are the main hormones that influence sex drive in women. The study found that when progesterone levels were higher, sex drive was lower. The researchers found that in the days prior to ovulation, progesterone was at its lowest and libido was higher. However, after ovulation, as progesterone levels increased, sex drive decreased. The researchers concluded that higher levels of progesterone “appear to act as an inhibitory signal for sexual motivation.”13

Fibrocystic breasts

Irregularities in your menstrual cycle caused by hormonal imbalances in progesterone levels can cause fibrocystic breasts. The symptoms of fibrocystic breast disease are lumpy breasts which are caused by benign cysts (non-cancerous lumps) in the breast that can sometimes be painful. The shape and size of the lumps can change during the monthly cycle.

Research into treating the painful and uncomfortable symptoms of fibrocystic breast disease found that increasing progesterone levels using a topical gel helped to lower the number and size of the cysts.

How to Test for Low Progesterone

If you have noticed one of more of the signs of low progesterone, it is important to check your levels of this hormone in your body. A doctor can perform a simple blood test to find out if you have a progesterone deficiency. This is usually done 21 days after the start of your menstrual cycle.

How to Increase Progesterone Levels

There are many ways to combat low progesterone levels naturally. It’s important that your hormones are in balance to make sure that you have a healthy reproductive system. This means making sure that levels of estrogen are not too high in your body.

Some ways to increase low progesterone levels include taking vitamin supplements to boost the body’s production of the hormone, eating certain foods that stimulate progesterone secretion, and avoiding stress and anxiety. You will be able to find detailed information about this subject in my article on how to increase progesterone levels naturally.

Read my other related articles:

Article Sources:

  1. HealthyWomen. Progesterone.
  2. UMM. Infertility in women.
  3. Ther Clin Risk Manag. 2009; 5: 403–407.
  4. Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol. 2005 Dec;17(6):598-600.
  5. EurekAlert. Progesterone supplements do not improve outcomes for recurrent miscarriages.
  6. Niger Med J. 2012 Oct-Dec; 53(4): 179–183.
  7. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Oct; 97(10): E1871–E1879.
  8. WebMD. Treating irregular periods.
  9. Clin Endo. Volume 79, Issue 2 August 2013 Pages 282–287.
  10. Harv Rev Psychiatry. 2009; 17(2): 120–137.
  11. MedScape. Progesterone, anxiety and premenstrual disorder.
  12. Horm Beh. Volume 62, Issue 4, September 2012, Pages 400–406.
  13. Horm Beh. Vol 63 (2013) 636–645

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