Progesterone is a sex hormone, along with estrogen and testosterone. The body naturally produces this hormone in the ovaries or testicles with smaller amounts made by the adrenal glands. Its primary function in women is to prepare the body for pregnancy and maintain gestation once it has occurred, but it also regulates menstruation and works in concert with estrogen to balance the endocrine system. Progesterone plays a smaller role for men as a precursor to cortisol and moderator of other hormones. Women frequently can benefit from the use of progesterone cream, according to author and physician John R. Lee.
In a normal menstrual cycle, estrogen dominates the first half (from day one of your period to ovulation) and progesterone dominates the second half. Estrogen’s main job is to cause cells to multiply, while progesterone’s role is that of a guardian, so to speak, to make sure that the cells die off naturally and continue the cycle, thereby keeping balance. When estrogen goes unopposed, because the progesterone is too low, such conditions as pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), endometriosis, fibroids and even cancer can occur.
The effects of progesterone in the body are numerous. According to Lee, they include: protection against breast fibrocysts, use of fat for energy, a natural diuretic, a natural antidepressant, promotes normal sleep patterns, decreases hot flashes, normalizes blood sugar levels, normalizes blood clotting, restores normal libido, restores proper cell oxygen levels, helps prevent breast and endometrial cancer, stimulates new bone formation, prevents autoimmune diseases, and it is necessary for survival of embryo.
When a woman reaches menopause or even perimenopause, the stage leading up to cessation of menstruation, the ovaries slow down and then cease ovulation. Without ovulation, the ovaries don’t produce progesterone. Other factors of low progesterone levels can be dysfunctional follicles due to environmental xenoestrogen exposure, nutritional deficiencies, bad diet and stress. Too little progesterone leads to estrogen dominance and thus hormonal imbalances like PMS, as well as typical menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings.
If your body is unable to produce sufficient progesterone, then supplementation is advisable rather than leaving estrogen unopposed which leads to a host of illnesses and problems. Because progesterone cream is oil-based, Lee said in his book "What the Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause," the most efficient way to absorb it is transdermally, or through the skin, rather than taking a pill orally or via injection. Both menopausal women and those who are still ovulating but suffering from PMS symptoms or fibroid cysts can safely take this cream. Typically you apply it to your skin during your luteal phase, the two weeks from ovulation to the start of your period, in doses that mimic what your body would normally produce. Within three months or so you should start to see results.
When choosing a supplemental progesterone cream, be sure that it is natural, not synthetic. Synthetic creams are called progestins, which have some of the benefits of natural progesterone, but many undesirable side effects that progesterone doesn’t, according to the National Institutes of Health.