Progesterone Levels in Pregnancy: Signs, Symptoms & Treatment

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Sabiha Anjum (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
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During pregnancy, a woman’s body goes through many changes to facilitate the growth and development of the foetus. These changes include an increase in hormone levels as well. One hormone that plays an important role during pregnancy is progesterone. This hormone is important during the childbearing years and has a lot to contribute to the health of the pregnant woman and her baby.

What Is Progesterone?

Progesterone is a female sex hormone produced in the ovaries each month. This hormone prepares the uterus for an impending pregnancy. If a woman gets pregnant during ovulation, the progesterone level in her body increases to facilitate the pregnancy process. But if her progesterone levels are low, it may affect her ability to conceive and put her at a higher risk of a miscarriage.

What Is the Role of Progesterone in Pregnancy?

During pregnancy, the progesterone hormone increases blood circulation between the placenta and the uterus, stimulating the growth of breast glands to produce milk.

How Can Progesterone Affect Your Pregnancy?

Progesterone is of great importance during pregnancy because of the following reasons.

  • It prepares the lining of the uterus to enable implantation.
  • It regulates the body temperature from the end of the ovulation period and throughout menstruation.
  • It thickens the uterus lining to ensure a pregnancy’s success.
  • This hormone increases the flow of arterial blood and glycogen into the uterus lining to ensure that the baby gets enough nutrients.
  • The progesterone hormone thickens the cervix and creates the mucus plug, which helps in blocking bacteria from entering the uterus.
  • It helps prevent uterine contractions.
  • Progesterone hormone also regulates your menstrual cycle.

What Are the Normal Progesterone Levels?

The normal levels of progesterone during pregnancy are given below. To help you understand better, we have provided the information based on weeks and trimesters. Progesterone is of extreme importance in the first trimester. Read on to find out how it increases in the initial weeks of pregnancy.

1. In the First and Second Week

In the first two weeks of pregnancy, ovaries release about 1 to 1.5 ng/ml of progesterone. You might not be pregnant yet, but your body will produce progesterone to prepare for pregnancy. Your pregnancy will be calculated from the last day of your menstrual cycle, but you will not be pregnant until the second week.

2. In the Third and Fourth Week

Once ovulation occurs, the endocrines in your ovaries will begin producing progesterone. Your progesterone level will gradually rise to 2 ng/ml or more during this time. This will stimulate the uterine walls to thicken in anticipation of the egg’s implantation. Once the egg is fertilised in the third week, your progesterone levels will rise by 1 or 2 ng/ml daily.

3. In the Fifth and Sixth Week

Your progesterone levels may be between 10 ng/ml and 29 ng/ml during this time. Doctors expect a minimum of 6 ng/ml to 10 ng/ml during the fifth and the sixth week. At this point, the progesterone in your body will help develop the embryo and the placenta, facilitating the growth of your blood vessels. Progesterone is also responsible for the ‘pregnancy glow’ you may notice. However, sometimes, it could also cause rashes or make your skin itch.

4. From Seventh to Fourteenth Week

From the seventh week, the progesterone will be produced in the placenta rather than the ovaries. This causes a slowdown in the rise of progesterone levels. However, your progesterone levels will rise again around the end of the first trimester. Your progesterone levels may be anywhere between 15 to 60 g/ml during this time. This number can be higher for women with multiple pregnancies. The progesterone hormone will help relax your muscles during this time and make it easier for your body to expand and accommodate the growing baby. It will also prevent contractions during early pregnancy. However, high progesterone levels during this time can lead to indigestionheartburnconstipation or haemorrhoids.

Trimester-Wise

Given below is the trimester-wise information about progesterone levels during pregnancy.

1. First Trimester

Progesterone levels can be between 9 and 47 ng/ml during your first trimester.

2. Second Trimester

A normal progesterone level during the second trimester is between 17 and 147 ng/ml.

3. Third Trimester

The progesterone levels between 55 and 300 ng/ml are considered normal in the third trimester.

What Are Low Progesterone Levels?

Progesterone levels are monitored throughout the first trimester to detect an ectopic pregnancy or a miscarriage. Progesterone levels lower than 6 to 10 ng/ml around the sixth week of pregnancy are low. If you are worried about low progesterone levels, you can ask your doctor to conduct a blood test. The results of the test will be provided to you within a day. For women who have had over 3 miscarriages within the 20th week of their pregnancy, doctors recommend progesterone treatment to prevent the chances of a miscarriage.

What Are the Causes of Low Progesterone Levels?

Some of the common causes of low progesterone levels in early pregnancy include:

  • Ectopic pregnancy – When the fertilized egg implants itself in the fallopian tube, the ovary, the pelvic or abdominal cavity, or the cervix, it is a case of an ectopic pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancy should be diagnosed on time. If it is left untreated, it could lead to life-threatening complications.
  • Loss of the foetus or the embryo early due to certain chromosome abnormalities.
  • A complete or incomplete miscarriage. This happens in about 10 to 25 per cent of pregnancies.
  • A threatened miscarriage or an inevitable miscarriage. This may or may not progress.
  • Low levels of BHCG lead to a chemical pregnancy. A chemical pregnancy is the loss of pregnancy in the early stages. It happens before the fifth week of gestation.
  • The early death of the corpus luteum. The corpus luteum is responsible for producing progesterone in the ovaries until the placenta takes over.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Low Progesterone Levels During Pregnancy

A miscarriage is the most common sign of low progesterone levels during pregnancy. Although you may notice spotting and bleed due to other reasons, it is always best to get your progesterone levels tested. Your doctor will conduct a blood test to check whether your pregnancy will survive or not. If your progesterone levels are too low, you won’t be able to carry the baby to term. You should consult a doctor immediately if you identify any of these symptoms.

What Are the Side Effects of Low Progesterone Levels?

Side Effects of Low Progesterone Levels

If the progesterone levels are low during pregnancy, they might result in:

What Are the Side Effects of High Progesterone Levels?

If you have a high level of progesterone during pregnancy, you may face the following side effects:

1. Mood Swings

An increase in progesterone levels has been linked to mood swings and depression.

2. Stuffy Nose

Since progesterone is responsible for relaxing the muscles during pregnancy, unstable levels of this hormone may also end up relaxing the smooth muscles of the nostrils. This can result in a stuffy nose.

3. Headaches

A rise in the progesterone levels increases blood flow into the brain, which relaxes the blood vessels. This can result in migraines or severe headaches in women.

4. Constipation

The hormone can also relax the intestinal muscles making it difficult for food to pass into the intestine, leading to constipation.

5. Breast Tenderness

It can cause tenderness and sensitivity in your breasts.

6. Fatigue

As the hormone affects the central nervous system, it can lead to extreme fatigue and sleepiness.

Low Progesterone Treatment During Pregnancy

Low progesterone levels can make it extremely difficult for a woman to conceive. If you are pregnant, you should try to maintain healthy levels of progesterone hormone as they help carry a pregnancy to term. If your progesterone levels are low, your doctor will suggest various treatment methods. Some of the common treatments for low progesterone during pregnancy are stated below –

  • Hormone Therapy – This is provided to expecting women to enable optimal lining of the uterus and increase the chances of carrying the baby to term.
  • The doctor may also suggest some creams and gels, which can be used topically. Some creams can be used vaginally, but only after consulting with the doctor.
  • The doctor might recommend suppositories when low progesterone levels lead to fertility issues. Vaginal suppositories are medication inserted into the vagina with a special applicator. However, it should only be used if it is recommended by a doctor.
  • Vaginal rings with hormone-releasing mechanisms may also be used. These release hormones at a slower pace than oral medication.
  • Oral pills like Provera can be taken only if prescribed by a doctor.

It is important that you do not use any over-the-counter medicines to increase the level of progesterone as these need doctor’s supervision. Also, it is ideal to consult a doctor and take the right prescription for medicines and supplements that you can consume.

Home Remedies

Here are a few home remedies that you can try to increase your progesterone levels.

1. Increase the Amount of Vitamin B6 and Vitamin C in Your Diet

The liver requires Vitamin B6 to break down oestrogen. Lack of Vitamin B6 will slow the breaking down of oestrogen and increase its level in the body. This can create a hormonal imbalance. To counter that, you can eat foods rich in Vitamin B6 such as seafood, walnuts, whole grains, lean red meat, poultry, beans, spinach, and potatoes. You will also need to consume Vitamin C. Studies show that taking 750 mg of Vitamin C daily for over six months can considerably increase the progesterone levels in the body. But eat them in moderation as too much of anything can cause complications. Furthermore, consult your doctor before increasing your intake of foods rich in Vitamin B6 and Vitamin C.

2. Consume Foods Rich in Zinc

Zinc is important to increase the production of progesterone in the body. The mineral zinc causes the pituitary gland to release hormones that stimulate the follicles in the ovaries. This leads to ovulation and the production of oestrogen and progesterone. Zinc is found in good quantity in foods like lean red meat, watermelon, dark chocolate, wheat germ, pumpkin, chickpeas, squash seeds, etc.

3. Eat Foods Rich in Magnesium

Magnesium is also important for maintaining a healthy amount of progesterone in the body as it promotes hormonal balance. You can include foods like black beans, pumpkin, okra, spinach, nuts, etc in your diet as they are rich in magnesium. You can also take dietary supplements.

Some Other Ways to Increase Your Progesterone Levels

Apart from these home remedies, there are other ways to increase progesterone levels. Here’s what you can do:

1. Lower your stress levels.

Chronic stress is known to affect the adrenal glands and lower the production of cortisol. Stress hormones can make the kidneys convert progesterone hormone to cortisol. High cortisol levels can be bad for your health. Hence, you should try to manage your stress levels. Indulge in activities to lower stress in your daily life. You can journal, read, listen to music, or meditate.

2. Maintain a healthy weight.

If you are overweight, your body will produce more oestrogen, which could imbalance progesterone levels. The progesterone to oestrogen ratio should be normal. Although losing weight won’t increase the progesterone in your body, it will balance your hormonal levels.

3. Do not overexercise.

Performing exercises during pregnancy is good as it can help you manage stress and maintain a healthy weight. But if you exercise too much, it can make your body produce more stress hormones than progesterone. If you want to continue exercising during pregnancy, you can swim, walk, or practise yoga. Avoid strenuous exercises completely and consult with your doctor before you start exercising.

FAQs

1. What Is Meant By a False Positive Progesterone Level?

A false positive progesterone level is when there is a rise in progesterone level in your body for a reason apart from pregnancy and ovulation. Some of the reasons why there might be an elevation in the progesterone levels in your body can be:

  • Ovarian cancer
  • Adrenal cancer
  • Taking progesterone pills or suppositories
  • Congenital adrenal hyperplasia is a condition that affects the adrenal gland
  • It can also be due to a laboratory error caused by a cross-reaction with other hormones

2. What If Progesterone Shows a False Positive Pregnancy hCG Test?

The results of a pregnancy test are based on the levels of the hCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin) hormone. This pregnancy hormone is not similar to the progesterone hormone. The progesterone levels in your body will not result in a false positive pregnancy test.

3. Can Low Progesterone Levels During Pregnancy Lead to a Miscarriage?

Low progesterone levels may be indicative of an ectopic pregnancy. It may also mean that the pregnancy may not last till term. Progesterone levels lower than 6 to 10 ng/ml in the 6th week of pregnancy can put you at a high risk of miscarriage.

4. How Can I Check My Progesterone Levels at Home?

You can get a Progesterone Test at home. It is an easy blood test that looks for the hormone progesterone. If you have a 28-day cycle, take the test on day 21 to determine whether ovulation has occurred before the collected progesterone-ovulation sample.

5. How Does Progesterone Affect IVF?

Medication is frequently utilised during an in vitro fertilisation (IVF) cycle to prevent you from releasing an egg too soon (premature ovulation). Unfortunately, your one level is impacted by these medications. Your doctor may advise a progesterone supplement to compensate for the levels when progesterone drops during pregnancy. In this manner, an embryo can enter your uterus and develop there (womb). Numerous academic research has examined the success rates of progesterone-based IVF treatments. According to this research, the rates are significantly greater than in progesterone-free cycles.

Progesterone is essential for a smooth pregnancy, and it is important to ensure that your progesterone levels are optimal to avoid any complications in pregnancy. Hence, it is recommended that you visit a doctor to measure your progesterone levels during pregnancy. Continue to monitor them during early pregnancy and seek timely treatment in case of low progesterone levels.

Also Read:

Progesterone During Pregnancy
How to Increase Progesterone Levels to Get Pregnant

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