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Progesterone

Progesterone is a hormone that's produced mainly by a woman's ovaries. It's one of the hormones that fluctuate with a woman's menstrual period. There is less progesterone after menopause.

Men's adrenal glands and testes also make progesterone.

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Different forms of progesterone are available by prescription. Progesterone is often used in:

  • Birth control pills
  • Hormone replacement therapy (either as pills or applied to the skin)

Many plants contain compounds related to progesterone. It's possible to buy products made from plant progesterone without a prescription.

A form of progesterone made from plants is also available as a skin cream without a prescription.

This article focuses on progesterone that's available without a prescription -- not the drug form of progesterone that requires a prescription.

Why do people use progesterone?

Over-the-counter progesterone cream has been marketed as a treatment for menopausal symptoms, including:

  • Hot flashes
  • Memory loss
  • Fatigue
  • Tender breasts

It's also sometimes used by people to try to treat:

  • Thyroid problems
  • Osteoporosis
  • Weight gain

The progesterone in these creams can effectively travel through the skin and into the bloodstream, according to research. In one study, menopausal women used 40 milligrams of cream twice daily, placing it on their arm, thigh, breast, or abdomen. Their blood levels of progesterone were as high as when they took progesterone capsules by mouth.

Can you get progesterone naturally from foods?

Many plants make progesterone. The progesterone in creams bought without a prescription is made by processing ingredients from plants, such as yams.

What are the risks of using progesterone?

Side effects. Progesterone may cause side effects such as:

  • Headache
  • Changes in heart rate
  • Coughing
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Menstrual changes
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vision changes
  • Vertigo
  • Low blood pressure

It may also cause symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as:

  • Skin rash or itchy skin
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Tingling in the mouth or throat
  • Trouble breathing
  • Swelling in the hands or face

Other possible side effects include:

  • Dizziness
  • Swelling
  • Digestive upset
  • Drowsiness

Risks. Progesterone may raise your risk of:

  • Breast cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Heart problems
  • Blood clotting problems
  • Stroke
  • Endometriosis
  • Uterine fibroids

Avoid using this product if you are pregnant. Also avoid if you have:

  • Allergy or sensitivity to progesterone
  • Liver problems
  • History of cancer of the breast or genitals
  • Bleeding or clotting problems
  • Vaginal bleeding that your doctor has not checked

Use this product with caution if you have:

  • Heart problems
  • Kidney problems
  • Seizures
  • Migraine headaches
  • Asthma
  • Depression

Interactions. Use with caution if you're taking medications or supplements that lower your blood pressure.

Progesterone may add to the drowsiness caused by certain drugs or herbs, which can make driving or using heavy machinery unsafe. It may also interact with many other medicines and supplements.

Tell your doctor about any supplements you're taking, even if they're natural. That way, your doctor can check on any potential side effects or interactions with any medications.

Supplements are not regulated by the FDA.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Kiefer, MD on February 13, 2013

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