Do You Have Low Progesterone?

What is Progesterone?

Low progesterone is more common than you may think. If you’ve been dealing with changes to your mood, weight gain, low basal body temperatures, recurrent miscarriages or irregularities in your menstrual cycle, then you might have low progesterone without realizing it.

​Finding out if you have low progesterone is important because progesterone (along with estradiol/estrogen) help maintain and keep in balance other hormone systems in your body.

Progesterone is also extremely important when it comes to maintaining a healthy pregnancy. It is a hormone dominant in the last half of your menstrual cycle (luteal phase) to help thicken the lining of the uterus in preparation for implantation. Without adequate amounts of progesterone, your body does not have the ability to thicken the lining of the uterus, and therefore infertility and/or miscarriage are common. A low progesterone level accounts for 3-10% of the infertility cases, and 35% of miscarriage cases and is known within the medical community as a Luteal Phase Defect/Dysfunction (LPD).

Symptoms of Low Progesterone

Symptoms of low progesterone levels include:

  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • irregular periods
  • night sweats
  • hot flashes
  • mood swings
  • breast tenderness
  • anxiety

However there are also other, less common, symptoms of low progesterone hormone levels, such as:

  • Breast or endometrial cancer
  • Gum disease
  • Brittle nails

What causes low progesterone?


One of the main causes of low progesterone is chronic or prolonged stress. Your adrenal glands produce cortisol in times of stress (as part of your fight-flight response). However, when you don’t give your body the time to recover, over-stimulation will lead to adrenal fatigue or exhaustion, and cortisol begins to plummet. So how can it make more cortisol? Answer: Progesterone.Your body actually “steals” progesterone to make more, and so treating the stress issue is a major step in recuperating from low progesterone.

What kind of stress are we referring to?

Stress can be emotional, mental or physical. Not sleeping enough, eating poorly, diet restriction, chronic exercise, toxin overload, trauma and low immunity can all contribute to this physical stress. Stress, alcohol, caffeine, and sugar can also contribute to deficiencies in Magnesium, Zinc and B6 which are required for progesterone production.

It seems that emotional stress, such as rejection from peers or social stress, impacts progesterone more than other types of stress. Regardless of the source of your stress, the bottom line is that it must be treated. That means it needs to be eliminated (if possible).


Adequate thyroid hormone and function are required for both regular ovulation and progesterone production in the body.

Specifically, studies have linked T3 thyroid hormone (the active thyroid hormone) to the release and cycle of healthy progesterone levels. 

You already know that stress will lead to low progesterone, so now we have a stress-thyroid-low progesterone connection. ​

Poor Diet

High-fat diets have been linked to high estrogen levels. Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating all encourage stress hormone production. As aforementioned, stress hormones disrupt reproductive hormone production. Furthermore, having excessively low or high body weight can halt ovulation and subsequent progesterone production.

Extreme Exercise

Strenuous exercising can also cause a woman to have insufficient body fat, leading to amenorrhea. Exercise-induced amenorrhea causes the body to believe it is in a “starvation state,” thereby pausing bodily operations not considered essential for survival, such as reproductive system functions.

History of Hormonal Birth Control Use

The idea behind birth control pills (when not used as a contraceptive) is to completely suppress the normal homeostasis and cycle of your hormones throughout the month. Doses of synthetic and pharmaceutically derived hormones are given to women to suppress the normal ovulatory pattern.

As a past user of Depo Provera, I can attest to this one! Depo Provera works by lowering your natural hormones to an almost menopausal level. It can take up to a year (and in some cases even longer!) before your hormone production balances back out and you begin to have normal cycles again.


Starting at around age 35 your progesterone levels will start to drop until menopause at which point they will become very low and stay there (unless you ​supplement). 

This is important to note because even without hormone imbalances, weight gain, thyroid disorders, etc. your progesterone will STILL lower slowly over time.

This dramatic decline in progesterone results in relative estrogen dominance in most women from around age 40 to menopause which may result in the symptoms listed above.

How To Increase Progesterone Levels


Women suffering from progesterone imbalance should begin by making lifestyle changes. Regular, moderate exercise and a balanced diet help keep the body healthy. A healthy body is much better able to maintain hormonal balance.

Your diet should be rich in protein, healthy fats and fruit & vegetables. Minimize alcohol, caffeine, gluten, dairy and sugar. Animal products and the Dirty Dozen should be organic so as to not take in any extra hormones that could alter your own production. Dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fruit, beans and some organic lean animal products are rich in Magnesium, B6 and Zinc.

Natural/Alternative Treatments

Natural and alternative treatments, which cause fewer side effects than prescription medications, are good for women who wish to avoid introducing foreign chemicals into the body. Natural medications have been reported effective by many women, as have therapies such as acupuncture.

Vitex Agnus-Castus, or Chastetree Berry is a beautiful herb that has a long history of use with women’s gynecological issues. It is not a hormone itself, but has the ability to naturally stimulate progesterone production and restore estrogen-progesterone imbalances. Vitex should be taken in small doses daily for at least 3 months to see the desired effects.

Stress Reduction

Try some stress-reducing activities such as tai chi, massage, yoga, walking in nature, meditation and artistic expression. If you can support your adrenal glands, the glands that secrete cortisol, you can encourage your body to produce it’s own cortisol versus using progesterone to do so. For more ideas, check out this post and this one.

Related Posts

Make sure you grab a copy of my FREE guide 5 Steps To Increase Your Fertile Cervical Mucus & my FREE Self-Care Mini Course. You can access either one by clicking on the title. These are packed full of information that you can begin implementing today to put yourself one step closer to getting pregnant, naturally.

If you’re looking for a group of like-minded women with which to share your fertility wellness journey, be sure to check out my Whole Body Fertility & Wellness Facebook group today!

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