4 Signs of Low Progesterone

Perimenopause, Progesterone

The Ultimate Guide to Thriving in the Menopause

If you are over 35 and have started noticing changes to your menstrual cycle, or changes to how you feel in the build-up to your period, you might just have entered perimenopause, where progesterone falls off a cliff.  If you think this might be you, read on (or watch the video below) because I am sharing the 4 signs of low progesterone that I most commonly see in my clinic.



The Role of Progesterone


But first, progesterone, what is it and why do we need it?  Progesterone is the sister hormone of oestrogen and it is released from the corpus luteum in the ovary in the second half of the cycle after ovulation.  Progesterone is critical for a regular menstrual cycle and for conception and maintaining a healthy pregnancy.


But in addition to that progesterone is involved with so many other functions including thyroid function, bone formation, it’s an anti-anxiety hormone and it promotes good quality sleep.  Whereas oestrogen is high energy and growth, progesterone comes along to balance that and to calm everything down.


But from our late 30s to early 40s it can go AWOL as ovarian function begins to slow and we move into perimenopause.  While this blog focuses on perimenopause and changes in progesterone levels, it is important to note that there are other causes of low progesterone including stress, nutritional deficiencies, hypothyroidism, and certain medications including anti-depressants, the pill and other synthetics progestins.


4 Signs of Low Progesterone


So let’s look at the most common symptoms that I regularly see with low progesterone, particularly in those beginning stages of perimenopause.


1. Cycle changes


The first of which is changes to your menstrual cycle. Your cycle may become irregular in that you might have shorter or longer cycles, shorter or longer bleeds, or you may have some spotting, particularly mid-cycle spotting, you might have light periods or heavy flooding or painful periods.


In addition to this, you may see more extreme mood swings and night sweats in the build-up to the period.  When progesterone falls, we naturally end up in a state of oestrogen dominance as we don’t have enough progesterone to balance our oestrogen levels.  And with that, we tend to see all of those excess oestrogen symptoms like rage and irritability before the period, heavy flooding periods and breast tenderness.


2. Sleep issues


Issues falling and staying asleep can also be one of the first signs of low progesterone.  Progesterone interacts with GABA a neurotransmitter that helps to lower brain activity and encourage relaxation and sleep.  So, less progesterone means less GABA and potential sleep issues.  Plus, progesterone itself helps with sleep so it’s a double whammy.  Typically, it is trouble falling asleep, but it can either that or waking during the night, or as I mentioned with the changes to your menstrual cycle it can be waking with night sweats, especially in the build-up to the period.


3. Anxiety


Building on that, less GABA and less of its calming influence, plus less progesterone, our anti-anxiety hormone can lead to increased anxiety.  In my clinic, women often present with increased anxiety before the period or at ovulation, but it can be at any time in the cycle and it can be just an increase in general worry – worrying about things that wouldn’t normally bother you or more extreme anxiety, with feelings of panic.  Often things that are normally easy like driving or flying or having to make decisions on what to buy for dinner, can become sources of great anxiety.

4. Hormonal Headaches


The 4th sign of low progesterone that I see often is hormonal headaches or migraines.  These typically strike during the period, before the period or at ovulation.  Whilst they are a sign of low progesterone, it could be that low progesterone is causing tension and that tension is bringing on the headache, or it could be that low progesterone is causing issues with histamine bringing on migraines or the oestrogen dominate state that is the result of the low progesterone is causing vasodilation… so sometimes can be a little a tricky to treat, but always start by looking at what you can do to increase progesterone.


Low Progesterone Options


These are the 4 signs of low progesterone that I see most often in my clinic.  The good news is that we have a lot of natural ways to help increase progesterone levels – the first of which is reducing stress through stress management techniques like meditation, yoga nidra, time in nature and then we can eat foods rich in Zinc, B6, Vitamin C and healthy fats.  There are also herbs and supplements like Chaste Berry also known as agnus castus.  If you are resonating with this blog and would like to know how to increase progesterone naturally, why not subscribe to my YouTube channel as this is part of a series I am doing on low progesterone in perimenopause.