By: Kacie Shrock, RN, BSN | Oct 17, 2022
Progesterone is a buzzword in the TTC world, and for good reason. It’s a hormone in the body that plays a vital role in the menstrual cycle and during pregnancy. It is produced by the ovaries, the placenta (when pregnant), and the adrenal glands.
Why Progesterone is Vital for Pregnancy
During the second half of your cycle after ovulation, progesterone rises in order to prepare the body for conception and pregnancy.
If pregnancy does not occur, progesterone levels drop, which triggers the shedding of the uterine lining aka the start of your period. If pregnancy does occur, progesterone levels continue to rise and stay elevated throughout the pregnancy.
Low levels of progesterone while trying to conceive and during early pregnancy may cause irregular cycles and difficulties conceiving, as well as headaches/migraines, mood changes, abnormal uterine bleeding, and frequent miscarriages.
Since progesterone plays such an important role in conception, it’s normal to wonder if you should get progesterone levels tested if you’re experiencing cycle irregularities, not conceiving despite timed intercourse, or experiencing recurrent pregnancy loss.
Signs of Low Progesterone
There are some signs of low progesterone you may be able to pick up on while trying to conceive that could potentially lead to early treatment and a successful pregnancy.
- Low libido
- Mood changes, including depression or anxiety
- Hot flashes
- Headaches or migraines
- Breast tenderness
- Spotting in the luteal phase, not related to your period
- Short luteal phase
Reasons You May Want to Have Progesterone Tested
- If you have been trying to conceive but have not had any success in 6-12 months.
- If you are unsure if you are ovulating or to confirm ovulation.
- If you are having irregular menstrual cycles.
- If you have a history of miscarriage.
- If you have any of the above signs of low progesterone.
When Should Progesterone Be Tested?
Progesterone testing is most accurately done with blood work ordered by your provider. Since progesterone levels rise after ovulation, in the second half of the cycle, it is best to have progesterone tested 7 days after ovulation.
You’ll want to utilize ovulation tests to identify your ovulation day so you can test your progesterone levels at the right time. A progesterone test before ovulation or too long after ovulation, could lead to inaccurate results.
One great tool to help confirm your ovulation is Basal Body Temperature (BBT) tracking. This can be done in the comfort of your own home by tracking your daily temperatures, upon waking up and after 3+ hours of solid sleep. An increase in BBT about 0.5-1 degree happens after ovulation, as progesterone levels rise.
What if Progesterone Levels Come Back Low?
If your progesterone results come back lower than the normal range, you will want to discuss a plan with your provider moving forward. Your doctor can prescribe medications to supplement low progesterone levels or support ovulation to naturally increase progesterone levels. Because the hormone plays such an important role in conception and having a healthy pregnancy, it is very important to have optimal levels when trying to conceive.
Unsure if your cycles are telling you to get your progesterone levels checked? Have your fertility chart interpreted by one of our Fertility Experts within 24 business hours by utilizing “Ask An Expert” right in the Premom App.
Nurse Kacie is a registered nurse who specializes in fertility and reproductive health. She has always had a passion for women's health and she supports women and couples virtually across the world while on their journey to their dream families!
Mesen TB, Young SL. Progesterone and the luteal phase: A requisite to reproduction. Obstetrics and gynecology clinics of North America. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4436586/. Published March 2015. Accessed October 17, 2022.
Henderson VW. Progesterone and human cognition. Climacteric : the journal of the International Menopause Society. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6309195/. Published August 2018. Accessed October 17, 2022.