What you should know about progesterone therapy during menopause
During menopause, your body drastically reduces the production of reproductive hormones and your periods gradually stop. For many, the disappearance of periods is a good thing, but the side effects can be difficult to deal with. Hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, insomnia, and weight gain are just some of the symptoms that accompany menopause.
For some, these symptoms are mild. For others, they are so harmful that medical intervention is required. Progesterone, either alone or with estrogen, can relieve some of these symptoms. If you’re considering progesterone or hormone therapy to relieve menopause symptoms, this is what you need. You need to know about the benefits and risks.
What is progesterone?
Progesterone is often referred to as the pregnancy hormone. During the reproductive years, progesterone affects the preparation of the uterus for a possible pregnancy. It also plays a role in the formation of a mucosal barrier around the cervix and the availability of breast milk. This hormone also influences a variety of other bodily functions.
So when your ovaries aren’t producing as much progesterone, you may experience:
- mood swings
- Changes in bone density,
- irregular bleeding
What is known about progesterone therapy and menopausal symptoms?
The most effective way to relieve the symptoms of menopause is hormone replacement therapy. If you don’t have a uterus, the most common therapy is estrogen alone. If you have a uterus, a combination of estrogen and progesterone is often recommended, as there is evidence that estrogen alone increases the risk of uterine cancer and other serious health problems. When estrogen and progesterone are taken together, they are often in pill form.
Progesterone-only is also a pill that contains micronized progesterone that is easily metabolized in the body.
Why are estrogen and progesterone together?
While you’re still having your period, the uterus sheds its lining (the endometrium) every month. Once the period stops, the endometrium stays in place.
Taking estrogen leads to thicken of the lining of the uterus and a thicker uterine lining increases the risk of endometrial cancer.
Researchers from Trusted Source found that adding progesterone to HRT keeps the womb lining thin, which reduces the risk of cancer.
Progesterone Reduces Hot Flashes
In 2012, researchers from Trusted Source evaluated the effects of progesterone on night sweats and hot flashes in menopausal people.
They tracked the number and severity of these symptoms and found that taking an oral dose of progesterone daily reduced both the number of hot flashes or night sweats and the intensity of each episode.
Progesterone also helps with sleep problems associated with menopause.
One of the most bothersome symptoms of menopause is delayed or interrupted sleep.
Researchers found that taking 300 milligrams (mg) of progesterone daily before bed improved the quality of deep sleep. Nor did it cause depressive symptoms or interfere with the ability to think clearly during the day. This study also confirmed the results of previous studies showing that progesterone had the ability to reduce the severity of night sweats, which can wake people from a deep sleep.
Progesterone may also provide some cognitive benefits. along with some memory issues.
There is evidence that progesterone may protect against cognitive decline when hormone replacement therapy is started early in menopause.
Some researchers found that progesterone improved visual and verbal memory in people going through menopause. However, the evidence is inconclusive.
For example, some trusted-source studies found no protective cognitive benefits for progesterone. In any case, it’s important to note that there’s no evidence that progesterone affects your thinking skills.
Does progesterone therapy have any side effects?
Yes, you could be having an allergic reaction to progesterone or any of the following side effects: tiredness headache abdominal pain or nausea, fluid retention or weight gain, breast tenderness, and vaginal bleeding, progesterone is not recommended for everyone.
Talk to your doctor about alternatives to progesterone if you: are over 60 years of age have been menopausal for more than 10 years have a personal or family history of breast cancer have an increased risk of dementia, have a heart attack or stroke, have blood clots, osteoporosis or liver disease.
What else can help relieve menopause symptoms?
If you want to relieve menopausal symptoms without hormone therapy, there are other options. Consider natural products.
Natural alternatives like black cohosh or evening primrose oil can help reduce hot flashes and night sweats. Exercise regularly.
Exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight, improves sleep, and reduces anxiety and mood swings that can accompany menopause. Watch what you eat.
Avoid spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol, as these can trigger hot flashes and night sweats. Find healthy ways to deal with stress. When you’re stressed, it can affect your sleep and mood.
It may also increase the frequency of hot flashes.
Consider practicing yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, tai chi, or spending time on your favorite hobby to relieve stress.
Progesterone is often combined with estrogen to treat menopausal symptoms. When combined, these two hormones can reduce hot flashes, night sweats, and other side effects of menopause. Progesterone thins the lining of the womb, which helps prevent womb cancer from developing.
Taken alone or with estrogen, progesterone may also improve sleep and protect some cognitive functions.
However, progesterone is not for everyone. Talk to a doctor about whether it’s safe for you. You should fully understand the risks and benefits of using progesterone to control menopausal symptoms.
If you’re not comfortable with the risks, there are natural remedies that can give you some relief.
Read also: Progesterone as a Supplement: What To Know