Why Is It Important to Monitor Progesterone Levels?

Progesterone plays an important role in the menstrual cycle and in maintaining the early stages of pregnancy.

Oova gives you accurate, clear measurements of your fertility hormones — luteinizing hormone (LH), estrogen, and progesterone — from the comfort of your own home. Read on to learn more about progesterone levels, and join Oova to start measuring your own. 

What is progesterone?

Progesterone is a hormone that is key to the menstrual cycle. It also is necessary for maintaining an early pregnancy.

During the second half of the menstrual cycle, called the luteal phase, progesterone is secreted by the corpus luteum, an outer layer that forms around the egg. The detection of progesterone after ovulation is the clearest indicator of an egg being released.

Progesterone is released to help prepare the body for pregnancy in the event that the released egg is fertilized. Specifically, progesterone causes the uterine lining to thicken so the fertilized egg, or embryo, can implant. If the egg is not fertilized, the corpus luteum will break down, the levels of progesterone begin to drop, and the uterine lining begins to shed, resulting in a period.

What does a typical progesterone chart look like?

Progesterone levels fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle, so it is important to follow the overall trend of the hormone behavior versus specific numbers each day. 

To confirm ovulation, the progesterone should begin to elevate 24-72 hours after the LH peaks. With Oova, we have seen the levels begin to elevate anywhere within that range.

In order to confirm ovulation, the progesterone levels should rise at least 5 ng/mL above the baseline progesterone values captured during the earlier part of the monitoring window.

Here are two examples of typical progesterone behavior confirming ovulation.

Example 1:

A chart displaying typical progesterone hormone level fluctuations. The chart shows that ovulation is confirmed by the rise in progesterone.

Example 2:

A chart showing how progesterone hormone levels typically change alongside LH levels. The chart shows that ovulation occurred.

Other progesterone patterns that may occur

Often, patients display dramatic progesterone behavior representing a zig-zag pattern. In this pattern, the progesterone levels elevate, then drop, and then elevate again. If this pattern continues throughout the luteal phase, it can indicate that the corpus luteum is not releasing a steady stream of progesterone.

Here is an example:

What are the progesterone levels we are looking for?

During the follicular phase, progesterone levels should be close to their baseline levels or very low. Post ovulation, the progesterone should begin to rise. In order to confirm ovulation, an increase of 5 ng/mL over baseline is expected. In terms of Oova percentages, women should expect to see a percentage at or above 22.2%.

How many days post-ovulation does the progesterone begin to rise?

This differs for every woman, however, typically, progesterone will rise anywhere from 24-72 hours after ovulation.

What happens if progesterone is very low?

If progesterone levels are on the lower side, irregular and heavy menstrual bleeding can occur. It can also lead to a miscarriage or early labor if the progesterone drops substantially during the pregnancy. If there is no progesterone rise that happens after ovulation, it can mean that the ovary failed to release an egg during the LH peak, and that particular cycle was anovulatory.

>>MORE:  Is Low Progesterone Hurting Your Fertility?

What are some things you can do if your progesterone is low or behaving irregularly?

If the progesterone levels are low or you often see a zig-zag pattern in the luteal phase, you may benefit from a progesterone supplement. It is important that you speak with your healthcare provider prior to taking any supplements, but it is worth a conversation to see if this is the right option for you. Supplements can be topical (applied as a cream) or ingested via oral pill. You can also incorporate certain foods that can stimulate your body to produce more progesterone naturally, such as:

  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Kale
  • Nuts
  • Pumpkin
  • Spinach
  • Whole grains

Some additional ways to increase the body’s natural progesterone is to maintain a healthy body weight, reduce stress, and avoid over-exercising.

>>MORE: What Are Low Progesterone Symptoms?

Takeaway

Progesterone is a fertility hormone that plays a crucial role in both your menstrual cycle and the early stages of pregnancy. Understanding your unique progesterone levels can give you important insights into your menstrual cycle (and any symptoms that come with it!), fertility, and overall health. If you want to measure and understand your progesterone levels, Oova can provide clear, accurate test results and information from your home.