Progesterone. One seemingly harmless word that determines the fate of almost all women!
Before I started my TTC journey, I had heard about this wonderful hormone, but paid it as much mind as I would testosterone, or any other hormones I felt did not impact my life. The day before my traditional marriage, when an old friend lamented about being diagnosed with hormonal issues, I know she mentioned progesterone, as well as a slew of other things that flew right over my head. At that time, I didn’t think I would ever have to think about it too much.
My rapid weight gain, hair loss, and, of course, delayed conception were the giveaway to me that something was not quite right in the hormone department. After several sessions with Dr. Google, it became clear to me that I was, indeed, deficient of this wonderful hormone. I also found out that this deficiency usually walks hand in hand with estrogen dominance, neither of which situation are good for a woman TTC. Basically, progesterone is the body’s natural complement to estrogen, but when the latter is over dominant, the former is repressed. My theory was later confirmed by my Doctor. Well, that was just swell wasn’t it!!!! It definitely answered a lot of questions for me.
It definitely explained the uterine fibroids I had had the year before, a condition progesterone is supposed to protect one against. My research also revealed that this super hero hormone protects against many types of cancers (breast, uterine, ovarian), and the vast majority of PCOS symptoms (such as facial hair, alopecia, insomnia, vaginal dryness, PMS, etc.). Generally, women with PCOS have low progesterone levels. At the time of ovulation, progesterone is created by the ovaries. A woman can have her period and still not ovulate. This was the case with me, as my periods were like clockwork, but ovulation was zero. If a woman does not ovulate, the progesterone required to remove stored uterine lining. It is this stored lining that eventually leads to uterine fibroids and cysts, endometriosis, fibrocystic breast disease, weight gain, hair loss, depression, etc.
For those who are able to produce enough progesterone to ensure ovulation, and subsequently are able to conceive, it is of extreme importance to ensure your progesterone level is high enough, as it is required for the successful sustenance of a pregnancy. A lot of my friends and TFC members will attest that the first thing I nag about, when they tell me they are pregnant, is to discuss progesterone with their doctors. Progesterone helps prepare the uterus for, and maintain, a fertilised egg. It also helps nurture the foetus, and maintain a supportive environment for the developing baby. By weeks 8 to 10 weeks of pregnancy, the placenta takes over from the ovaries, is able to produce enough progesterone for the baby. But for women who have PCOS, and/or had their ovulation induced by such drugs as clomid, going on progesterone support once pregnancy is confirmed is crucial!
For people like me who got pregnant via IVF, going on progesterone support is critical as some of the medication used during such assisted reproductive methods can suppress your body’s ability to produce progesterone, in addition to possible underlying production issues. In such cases, well at least in mind, I was placed on progesterone suppositories from the day before my embryo transfer. I had the choice of going through the “front door” (vagina) or “back door” (anus), and I used whichever mode I was more comfortable with at the time. With my 1st IVF cycle, and even one of my clomid cycles prior, I was placed on progesterone injections in addition. The story about those injections is one for another day. Anyone who has had a progesterone shot will attest that it is one of the more painful shots you will ever care to have! It is oil based, so you can imagine the pain. But it’s a pain that most women will gladly bear every day they have to take those shots, if it can guarantee them of their babies.
Even though I was told I didn’t have to continue with progesterone support after I hit the 12-week mark, I sure as heck wasn’t going to take any chances, and took it right up till I hit 30 weeks, and had run out of the stash I had taken along with me when I travelled to have my twins. Call it paranoid or whatever, but I would rather be safe than sorry…and I still advice people to stay on the progesterone support for as long as they can.
The morale of the story is that you need to have an idea of your hormone situation…always. Don’t wait to be surprised, especially if you are trying for a baby, or are in the early stages of a pregnancy. Know your status, and act accordingly.
Good luck…and baby dust to all!
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