Overview

Progesterone is a hormone that occurs naturally in the body. It can also be made in a laboratory.

"Progestin" is a general term for a substance that causes some or all of the biologic effects of progesterone. The term "progestin" is sometimes used to refer to the progesterone made in the laboratory that is in oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy. However, all progesterone and progestin products are made in the laboratory. The term "natural progesterone" is really a misnomer. "Natural progesterones," including the prescription products Crinone and Prometrium, are made from a chemical called diosgenin that is isolated from wild yam or soy. In the laboratory, diosgenin is converted to progesterone. The human body is not able to make progesterone from diosgenin, so eating wild yam or soy will not boost your progesterone levels.

Over-the-counter (OTC) progesterone products may not contain progesterone concentrations as labeled. Also, topical progesterone products (preparations applied to the skin) marketed as cosmetics require no FDA approval prior to marketing. There is currently no limit on the amount of progesterone allowed in cosmetic products. In 1993 the FDA proposed a rule to limit the amount of progesterone in these products, but this rule was never finalized.

Women commonly take progesterone to help restart menstrual periods that unexpectedly stopped (amenorrhea), treat abnormal uterine bleeding associated with hormonal imbalance, and treat severe symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Progesterone is also used in combination with the hormone estrogen to "oppose estrogen" as part of hormone replacement therapy. If estrogen is given without progesterone, estrogen increases the risk of uterine cancer.

Progesterone is also used for a variety of other conditions not listed above, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.

How does it work ?

Progesterone is a hormone released by the ovaries. Changing progesterone levels can contribute to abnormal menstrual periods and menopausal symptoms. Progesterone is also necessary for implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterus and for maintaining pregnancy.

Lab-made progesterone is used to imitate the functions of the progesterone released by the ovaries.

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