Achieving an optimal hormonal balance is one of the essentials when trying to conceive (TTC). The hormone, progesterone, is one of the big team players to watch out for.
Along with many other functions, it maintains the lining of the uterus, making it possible for a fertilised egg to attach and survive. It also plays a pivotal role in keeping everything on track during pregnancy.
So what happens if your body’s progesterone level is too low at a time when you need it most? How can you help to correct this hormonal imbalance? Read on to find out.
What is Low Progesterone?
Progesterone is the main hormone involved in the luteal phase in the menstrual cycle. This phase usually starts on or around day 14 following ovulation.
At this point, changes happen that will support a fertilised egg if you get pregnant. Progesterone secreted by the corpus luteum is the hormone responsible for these. When there’s insufficient progesterone, changes needed for a successful pregnancy won’t happen.
On top of that, if your body’s progesterone level is too low, maintaining a pregnancy may also not be possible. Low progesterone comes with a variety of symptoms.
Signs of Low Progesterone
Progesterone has functions that are not always directly related to fertility. It’s important to look out for any of these tell-tale signs that could indicate a lack of progesterone:
- Spotting between periods
- Heavy menstrual bleeding or no period
- Short luteal phase with dips in temperature
- Missed periods
- No ovulation
- Vaginal dryness
- Recurrent early miscarriages
- Decreased sex drive
- Sore breasts
- Weight gain
- Water retention
- Dry skin
- Disturbed sleep
- Foggy thinking and memory lapses
- Increased facial hair
- Hot flashes
Symptoms will vary from person to person. A general rule of thumb is that the more of them you have, the more likely it is that you have a hormonal imbalance due to a lack of progesterone.
Main Causes of Low Progesterone
Understanding how you might be able to fix low progesterone means getting to know its more common causes. Here are some of them:
When you’re under a lot of stress, your body chooses survival over procreation. This means it will make more of the hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. The problem is that some ingredients needed to make these are also necessary for making progesterone.
2. Oestrogen Dominance
In some cases of oestrogen dominance, your body makes too much oestrogen. This can cause an imbalance with the optimum level of progesterone.
Once you reach your mid-30s, there is likely to be a decline in the quantity of progesterone your body produces.⠀⠀
Other causes of low progesterone include Hypothyroidism and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).
Natural Ways to Achieve a Better Progesterone Balance
Making changes to your lifestyle can have a huge impact on correcting a hormonal imbalance and can increase fertility.
These are some of the steps to take that could help you to increase progesterone and your chances of getting pregnant:
1. Make Time to Relax
Take time out to practice mindfulness, yoga or breathing exercises. Fit regular exercise into your daily routine even if it’s a short walk in the park. Avoid using alcohol as a way to unwind. You’re best cutting it out completely when you’re TTC.
2. Improve Your Diet
You should steer clear of processed foods and eat a healthy, balanced diet. If you’re able to, always choose organic products. This will ward off any intake of harmful pesticides or fertilisers used to grow fruit and vegetables or in the rearing of animals.
If possible, when drinking tap water, use a filter that can get rid of the harmful hormone disruptors found in mains supplies.
Your body needs a certain amount of ‘good’ cholesterol to make pregnenolone, a steroid hormone that in turn makes progesterone. Including a little coconut oil, olive oil, olives, nuts, seeds, oily fish or avocados in your diet would be a good move.
3. Reduce Your Exposure to Xenohormones
You’ll find dangerous xenohormones almost everywhere in the environment. They can cause serious hormonal imbalances. They’re in everything from shampoo to cleaning fluids and the plastics used to package them.
Check the everyday products you use at home and replace any that do not contain natural ingredients. Avoid plastic food wraps and drinking from plastic bottles. Always use glass containers when reheating food in the microwave.
4. Eat Foods Rich in Magnesium and Vitamin B6
In many western countries, women have a deficiency of magnesium in their diets. Magnesium plays a key part in maintaining a healthy hormonal balance.
You could consider taking a magnesium supplement but there are lots of healthy foods that contain high levels of magnesium too. These include:
- Good quality dark chocolate
- Almonds, brazil nuts, and cashews
- Lentils, peas and beans
Vitamin B6 also plays a key role in keeping hormones well-balanced. One study has shown that increasing B6 vitamins to around 200-800 mg per day can raise progesterone levels. Turkey, oats, bananas and milk are all good sources of vitamin B6.
Acupressure is like acupuncture but without needles. There are hundreds of acu-points on the body that you can press to help balance hormones and improve your fertility.
Some of these points are good at naturally increasing progesterone and we see clients using these points to make amazing changes in their luteal phase. Typically, when these points are used we see Body Basal temperature charts change to include:
High rise in temperatures immediately after ovulation.
Consistently high temperatures, with no dips.
Extension of the luteal phases with high temperatures for at least 10 days.
All of these things are important to create a Conceivable Cycle.
6. Maintain a Healthy Weight
It’s common for a woman to stop menstruating when her body drops too far below its ideal weight. This can have an adverse effect on a person’s hormones as the body will use any nutrients to keep the body in survival mode.
There is a tendency in women who are too overweight to produce too much oestrogen. This can cause a hormonal imbalance with the body’s progesterone. If the two hormones are not in harmony then it will create fertility issues.
Keeping Your Progesterone Level on an Even Keel
Levels of progesterone are going to vary in every individual and for all sorts of reasons. When they are too low, there are plenty of natural options available to try and redress the balance.
Destressing, eating the right diet along with maintaining a healthy weight can all have a positive impact on a hormonal imbalance.
Low progesterone is one of the factors that could be stopping you from getting pregnant.
All my best,
Rachel Bolton BSc (Hons), Lic. Ac., Lic. Tui Na.
I empower women to see themselves as Fertility Heroes and help them to optimise their fertility, get pregnant and have healthy babies.