Are you trying to get pregnant but not successful yet? It could be due to the hormone levels in your body.
Hormonal imbalance is one of the leading causes of infertility. One hormone that mainly affects a woman’s fertility is progesterone (pregnancy hormone). Low levels of this hormone may hinder your ability to conceive.
On the bright side, there are ways to improve the progesterone level in your body and increase your chances of getting pregnant. In this MomJunction post, we tell you about the importance of progesterone for fertility and how to improve it naturally.
Why Is Progesterone So Important For Fertility?
Progesterone is a female sex hormone that controls menstruation and fertility. It plays a vital role in initiating and maintaining pregnancy too. The corpus luteum, a temporary hormone-secreting gland in ovaries, produces this hormone post ovulation and prepares the uterus lining (thickens it) for implantation of the fertilized egg (1).
If you conceive, the hormone activates further and helps develop blood vessels in the lining to supply nutrients to the fetus. If you don’t get pregnant, the level of progesterone drops, and it initiates the menstrual cycle causing premenstrual syndrome or PMS.
The levels of progesterone in the body go down when there is an increase in the levels of estrogen, the primary female sex hormone that develops female sexual characteristics, regulates progesterone, and protects the pregnancy (2).
While the exact cause for this is not known, there are some theories surrounding low levels of progesterone in women. Keep reading to know more.
What Are The Reasons For Low Progesterone?
There is not enough evidence to explain the causes of low progesterone levels in women. However, researchers believe it could be due to one of the following reasons (3):
- Excessive exercise for prolonged periods could be responsible for a reduction in your progesterone levels.
- Too much stress could result in hormonal imbalance. It increases the level of cortisol hormone (stress hormone) and lowers the progesterone levels in your body. This could be one of the reasons for miscarriage too (4).
- Exposure to xenoestrogens (found in plastics, herbicides, pesticides, hydrogenated oils, margarine, etc.) could decrease the progesterone levels in the body (5).
- Excess body weight leads to increased estrogen levels, thereby bringing down progesterone. Therefore, being overweight often hampers your ability to conceive.
- Older women or women around 50 years could produce decreased progesterone due to menopause (6).
Low levels of this pregnancy hormone could affect your body in several ways. Find out how next.
How Does Low Progesterone Affect Pregnancy?
The primary function of progesterone in women is the thickening of the uterus. When your progesterone levels are low, the chances of implantation of the fertilized egg are low, thus reducing your chances of getting pregnant.
If you have not been conceiving in spite of taking all the measures, then watch out for these signs of low progesterone:
- Lack of sleep
- Mood swings
- Breast tenderness
A few home care tips can help you keep your progesterone levels up and bring these symptoms down.
How To Increase Progesterone Naturally To Get Pregnant?
Instead of taking oral medications or treatments, you can try a few natural remedies to increase the progesterone levels in your body. Do check with your doctor before trying them.
- Avoid excessive exercise: If you indulge in strenuous workouts for prolonged periods, your body will secrete more cortisol or stress hormone than progesterone. So, it is best to stick to a moderate exercise routine, ideally four days a week and for about 30 to 60 minutes a day.
- Maintain a healthy weight: An increase in weight causes imbalance in hormones. It increases estrogen levels and decreases progesterone levels. So try to keep your weight in check if you’re planning to get pregnant (7).
- Reduce stress levels: Prolonged psychological stress makes the body release cortisol or stress hormone to manage stress. As mentioned before, this results in a reduced amount of progesterone in the body. So try and manage stress the right way to maintain a balance in hormones (8).
- Focus on the diet: Certain foods don’t contain progesterone, but they could help in regulating the levels of the hormone. These include:
a. Zinc: It plays a vital role in the reproduction cycle, prompting ovaries to release progesterone. Some foods rich in zinc are chickpeas, pumpkin, red meat, and almonds (9).
b. Omega 3: Food with omega 3 acids balances the hormone levels. Foods that enhance progesterone levels are eggs, walnuts, flaxseed, milk, and fish such as tuna, mackerel, and salmon (10).
c. Vitamins: Food rich in vitamin B6, C, and E have shown an increase in progesterone levels (11) (12) (13). Foods rich in these nutrients include chicken, egg, soybeans, oatmeal, brown rice, broccoli, potato, Brussels sprouts, wheat germ, and plant oils such as olive and soy oils (14).
d. Cholesterol: It is required to make essential hormones such as progesterone. Nuts (hazelnuts, almonds, pecans), olive oil, fatty fish (sardines, salmon, mackerel), oats, and beans are good sources (15).
e. Fiber: Consumption of fiber is good for the reproductive cycle, as it helps to improve the progesterone levels. Amaranth, flax seeds, and quinoa are some of the rich sources of fiber.
It is easy to improve the levels of progesterone naturally. These are safe and effective, and much better than taking supplements. So eat healthy foods, stay calm, and exercise moderately to boost your progesterone production, thereby increasing your chances of pregnancy.
Did you increase progesterone naturally? Let us know your experiences in the comment section.
2. Progesterone; You and your hormones; Society for Endocrinology
3. M. Aucoin and A. Weber; Improved progesterone levels and pregnancy following Vitex agnus-castus (chaste tree) supplementation in a case of recurrent pregnancy loss: A case report; Australian Journal of Herbal and Naturopathic Medicine (2018)
4. P. A. Nepomnaschy et al.; Cortisol levels and very early pregnancy loss in humans; Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (2006)
5. T. S. Aldad, N. Rahmani, C. Leranth, and H. S. Taylor; Bisphenol-A (BPA) Exposure Alters Endometrial Progesterone Receptor Expression in the Non-human Primate; Fertility & Sterility: American Society for Reproductive Medicine (2011)
6. Hormones as you age: Health and wellness; Rush University Medical Center
7. A. Kolan; Estrogen Dominance Clinical Tool; Whole Health: Change the conversation
8. J. R. Roney and Z. L. Simmons; Elevated Psychological Stress Predicts Reduced Estradiol Concentrations in Young Women; Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology (2015)
9. Zinc: Fact Sheet for health professionals; National Institutes of Health
10. Omega-3 fatty acids: Fact Sheet for health professionals; National Institutes of Health
11. GE Abraham; Nutritional factors in the etiology of the premenstrual tension syndromes; The Journal of Reproductive Medicine (1983)
12. H. Henmi et al.; Effects of ascorbic acid supplementation on serum progesterone levels in patients with a luteal phase defect; Fertility and Sterility: American Society for Reproductive Medicine (2003)
13. A. Takasaki et al.; Luteal blood flow and luteal function; Journal of Ovarian Research (2009)
14. Vitamins and minerals; NHS
15. Why cholesterol matters for women; Johns Hopkins Medicine
16. Z. Xu, S. T. McClure, and L. J. Apple; Dietary Cholesterol Intake and Sources among U.S Adults: Results from National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES), 2001–2014; Nutrients (2018)