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Dr Nicky Keay
Chief Medical Officer & endocrinology expert
Progesterone is a female sex hormone that has important roles regulating fertility. It is mainly produced by the ovaries after ovulation has occurred. Ovulation is where an egg is released from the ovaries in preparation for fertilisation and pregnancy.
Our ovulation blood test allows you to check your progesterone levels on the 21st day of your menstrual cycle or 7 days before your next period begins. The progesterone test will show if you are ovulating normally.
Progesterone is a female steroid hormone and is released mostly during the second part of the menstrual cycle.
Around day 14 of the cycle, an egg is released from the ovary, a process called ovulation. An ovarian follicle encloses the developing egg, and once it is released, the remains of the follicle develop into a structure called the corpus luteum.
The corpus luteum produces progesterone to prepare the body for pregnancy just in case the egg is fertilised and stimulates the thickening of the tissue lining of the uterus, so that the fertilised egg can implant itself. If the egg isn’t fertilised, the corpus luteum breaks down and progesterone levels fall, allowing a new menstrual cycle to begin.
If an egg is fertilised, progesterone has an important role in maintaining pregnancy. It stimulates the production of blood vessels in the womb, as well as the production of nutrients that will keep the early embryo nourished.
Progesterone is a steroid sex hormone which is secreted by the corpus luteum. The corpus luteum is produced in the ovary after ovulation has occurred. So, this is why “21-day progesterone” or a blood test taken 7 days before menstruation is used as an indicator of ovulation. Usually a 21-day progesterone level of 30nmol/L or above is indicative of ovulation. If ovulation does not occur, then a corpus luteum will not be formed and progesterone will not increase. Throughout the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle (from day 1 to ovulation around day 14) the progesterone level is low.
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Progesterone levels rise after the ovaries have released an egg (ovulation). Progesterone levels will peak around 5-9 days after ovulation, during the luteal phase (second half of the menstrual cycle). Therefore, progesterone levels are usually tested seven days before the start of your next period when levels will be at their greatest.
An imbalance of progesterone can be caused by:
A drop in progesterone during pregnancy can cause miscarriage and premature labour. If a woman is at risk of low progesterone levels during pregnancy, she can be given a synthetic form of the hormone to maintain pregnancy.
A healthy lifestyle made of up of a good, balanced diet and regular exercise can help to keep your periods regular and your menstrual cycle efficient.
If you have been diagnosed with PCOS it is helpful to lose weight if you’re overweight and eating a healthy, balanced diet can help to ease symptoms.
Although progesterone is predominantly a female hormone, it is also produced in men. Progesterone has a role in preserving male masculinity because it is a precursor to testosterone.
As men age, progesterone levels decrease, which reduces the level of testosterone being produced and oestrogen levels rise. Some of the implications of low progesterone levels in men include:
If progesterone levels are low, then it is likely that the ovary hasn’t released an egg. If results reveal that your progesterone level is low and you are finding it difficult to conceive, you should consult your GP.
Both oestrogen and progesterone are female steroid hormones which have key roles in the development of the female reproductive system, the menstrual cycle and pregnancy.
During the menstrual cycle, oestrogen is responsible for repairing and thickening the lining of the uterus, while progesterone maintains it during the second half of the menstrual cycle and pregnancy if it occurs.
If ovulation has occurred, then your 21-day progesterone level should be 30 nmol/L or above.
Polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS is a common condition in females which affects the function of her ovaries.
In PCOS, many follicles form in the ovary, although ovulation may not occur.
It is estimated that 1 in 5 women in the UK are affected by PCOS and around half of the individuals do not present with any symptoms.
Approximately half of women with PCOS will experience symptoms and these can include:
The condition is also associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol levels.