Last modified on February 7th, 2023
Progesterone is a hormone the ovaries releases that plays a role in the early parts of pregnancy and the menstrual cycle. Progesterone is part of a group of steroid hormones, and low progesterone levels can lead to irregular or heavy menstrual bleeding. If you’re pregnant and experience a drop in your progesterone levels, this can cause miscarriages. There’s also a link between low progesterone levels, polycystic ovary syndrome, and other hormonal conditions.
Our guide talks about low progesterone levels, the symptoms and implications, and supplements that can help raise your levels.
What does progesterone do in your body?
The primary function of progesterone is to prepare the lining of your uterus for a fertilized egg that will implant and grow. If pregnancy doesn’t occur, your endometrium, the lining of the uterus, will shed during your period. If a conception occurs, progesterone levels are supposed to go up, which supports your pregnancy.
When your ovary releases an egg, which is ovulation, it’s typically around the middle of your menstrual cycle.
A corpus luteum forms around your empty egg follicle, and progesterone production starts. The corpus luteum is a temporary gland that supports the start of your pregnancy.
Progesterone thickens the lining of your uterus, creating the optimal environment for the implantation of a fertilized egg.
If your egg isn’t fertilized, which means you don’t get pregnant, your corpus luteum breaks down, reducing progesterone levels. Reduced progesterone levels thin your uterine lining, it breaks down, and then your menstrual period begins.
Low progesterone and high estrogen
Progesterone and estrogen are supposed to work together as a team in your body to regulate specific processes. If you have low progesterone levels, then you may have estrogen dominance.
Estrogen is considered the female hormone, while testosterone is the male hormone, but men and women have both. Women, on average, have higher estrogen levels, and men have more testosterone.
Estrogen helps initiate female sexual development and works with progesterone to regulate menstrual cycles and your reproductive system. If you have low progesterone levels, it’s going to disrupt your hormonal balance. If your estrogen levels are too high compared to your progesterone levels, it’s estrogen dominance.
Signs of estrogen dominance in women include:
- Breast swelling and tenderness
- Decreased sex drive
- Fibrocystic lumps in the breasts
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Mood swings
- Panic attacks
- Weight gain
- Hair loss
- Cold hands or feed
- Sleep problems
- Memory issues
- Increased PMS symptoms
Abnormally high estrogen levels can also increase the risk of blood clots, stroke, endometrial and ovarian cancer, and thyroid dysfunction.
What are normal progesterone levels?
Normal progesterone levels for men, women at the start of their menstrual cycle, and postmenopausal women are 1 ng/mL.
For women in the middle of their menstrual cycle, normal levels are 5 to 20 ng/mL.
If you’re in your first trimester of pregnancy, the normal range is 11.2 to 90 ng/ML. For the second trimester, normal progesterone levels are 25.6 to 89.4; for the third trimester, normal levels are 48.4 ng/mL up to 300 or more.
Progesterone fluctuates a lot, even throughout a single day.
Progesterone’s role in pregnancy
If you get pregnant, progesterone is critical since it thickens the lining of your uterus. A thick lining of the uterus helps fertilized eggs grow into embryos, and then they can become a fetus.
When it becomes thick, your uterine lining provides nutrients for an embryo, and then after the formation of the placenta, this will take over the production of progesterone.
If you’re pregnant, your progesterone levels will increase every trimester, reaching their peak in your third trimester.
Progesterone levels naturally decline as you approach menopause because ovulation stops occurring.
In pregnancy, along with thickening your uterine lining, progesterone prevents you from ovulating and prevents uterine contractions from helping stop preterm labor. Progesterone also helps prepare your breasts for breastfeeding.
Because of its essential role, if you have low progesterone levels in the early stages of your pregnancy, you can be at a higher risk of miscarriage.
Men also have progesterone, although at much lower levels. Progesterone helps create sperm in men.
Progesterone levels chart for pregnancy
The following is a chart for progesterone levels during pregnancy.
Low End of Normal
High End of Normal
300 or more ng/mL
Progesterone’s role in menstruation
Progesterone has many roles, but its main one is to get your body ready to be pregnant.
As far as progesterone’s role in menstruation, the hormone helps keep your cycles regular. Your progesterone levels peak right after your ovary releases a mature egg, the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle. This usually happens around two weeks after the first day of the most recent period you had.
During this time, your body is theoretically preparing for pregnancy, so your progesterone levels have to go up for that to happen. If a pregnancy does occur, your progesterone levels stay high.
It’s ultimately the falling of your progesterone levels that spark menstruation.
How does low progesterone affect my body, and what do low progesterone levels mean?
Low progesterone levels mean that your hormones are out of balance. When your hormones aren’t balanced, they can cause various physical and mental symptoms. Low progesterone levels can mean mood changes, irregular periods, and trouble conceiving.
What causes low progesterone?
Some of the potential causes of low progesterone include:
- Chronic stress
- Poor diet
- Hyperprolactinemia (high prolactin)
- Low cholesterol
- Ovulation issues like polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Increased levels of cortisol
If you’re pregnant and have low progesterone, your doctor will likely want to treat it because of the risk of preterm birth.
Treatment with progesterone when you’re pregnant can significantly reduce some people’s risk of premature birth.
Vaginal progesterone may be used if you have a short cervix and are pregnant with one baby. If you’re pregnant with just one baby and you’ve had a child born early previously, your doctor might recommend progesterone shots.
If you’re pregnant with multiples, your doctor wouldn’t advise progesterone treatment.
How does low progesterone affect pregnancy?
The effects of low progesterone during pregnancy can make it hard to stay pregnant. It’s important to have high progesterone levels until you give birth. Otherwise, you’re at risk of pregnancy complications, including miscarriage, preterm labor, or ectopic pregnancy.
What are the signs of low progesterone?
The signs of low progesterone are detailed below.
Low progesterone symptoms
Symptoms of low progesterone or hormone imbalance can include:
- Hot flashes
- Low libido
- Irregular periods
- Short menstrual cycles fewer than 24 days long
- Migraines or headaches
- Anxiety, depression, or mood changes
- Irregular or absent periods
- Spotting between periods or abnormal uterine bleeding
- Low blood sugar
- Sore breasts and breast tenderness
- Vaginal dryness
What does low progesterone mean for men?
Progesterone serves as a building block for other hormones, including testosterone. Low levels of testosterone can have implications for men as a result. For example, low progesterone in men can lead to anxiety, erectile dysfunction, and fatigue. It can also lead to low libido, a higher risk of developing prostate cancer, and an enlarged prostate.
Men with low progesterone might have estrogen dominance.
Symptoms of estrogen dominance in men include reduced muscle development, baldness, breast growth, and changes in body odor.
High progesterone levels
If you’re pregnant, it’s normal to have high progesterone levels. It’s also possible for high progesterone levels to occur because of a problem with your adrenal glands, ovarian cysts, or even ovarian cancer.
Sometimes, high levels of progesterone are a sign of a molar pregnancy, which is when abnormal cells start to grow in the placenta.
One test with high progesterone levels isn’t usually something to worry about, though, since levels fluctuate, and your levels could go up before you start your period if you aren’t pregnant.
Does low progesterone cause hot flashes?
As you begin to transition to menopause, your ovaries stop producing high levels of estrogen and also progesterone. The changes in hormone levels during this time cause hot flashes and other related symptoms.
Common symptoms stemming from changes in hormone levels during menopause, including progesterone, are night sweats, discomfort during sex, and vaginal dryness.
The production of hormones, including estrogen and progesterone, starts to decrease as women age. It’s thought that these hormonal changes lead to the symptoms of menopause which include hot flashes.
For women going through menopause, their healthcare provider might recommend hormone replacement therapy to steady out their levels of progesterone and estrogen.
There are risks associated with hormone treatments, also called menopausal hormone therapy. The risks include stroke, blood clots, heart attack, breast cancer, gallbladder disease, and dementia.
Because of those risks, some women opt to try natural ways to balance their hormones before hormone therapy.
Progesterone can be added to estrogen in hormone therapy to protect against uterine cancer, but it appears to raise the risk of stroke and blood clots.
How can I check my progesterone levels at home?
If you’re trying to conceive, you might be interested in checking your progesterone levels at home or a home progesterone test, which is an option.
Progesterone can be tested through urine and blood, and you can order an at-home test. Progesterone blood testing is usually done on the 21st day of your cycle when progesterone should be elevated if there is ovulation.
Since progesterone levels can fluctuate so much, even hour-to-hour, a single blood test might not give a completely accurate result.
There are also urine tests that look at pregnanediol glucuronide, the urine metabolite of progesterone. The levels present in urine first thing in the morning are usually a way to see an average of your blood levels from the day before rather than just seeing a snapshot.
There’s also something called a DUTCH test which tracks the hormones in your urine throughout your cycle. If you do this test, you collect urine samples at home and then send them to a lab.
Low progesterone and pregnancy
If you have low levels of progesterone during pregnancy, it can contribute to miscarriages and ectopic pregnancy.
If your levels are too low, you might also be at risk of preterm delivery.
You need a certain amount of progesterone to maintain the uterus until the birth of your baby.
It is possible to increase progesterone, either through medications or naturally.
If you’re pregnant, you need to speak to your doctor about their recommendations.
For example, natural ways to increase progesterone include having healthy fats, getting enough magnesium, and eating plenty of protein.
Some supplements can help with hormonal balance, which we discuss below.
During pregnancy, if your levels are low or you can’t produce progesterone the way you should, your doctor might recommend treatment with hormone therapy.
Prescription progesterone treatments are available, and most are given as oral tablets, injections, or vaginal suppositories.
Can you get pregnant with low progesterone? This is a question a lot of women have. You can, but carrying the pregnancy to term can be harder.
Progesterone is often called the pregnancy hormone. If progesterone levels are below 10 ng/mL, it may mean that ovulation hasn’t happened.
How to Increase Progesterone Levels Naturally
You can make lifestyle changes that can help naturally raise your progesterone levels.
First, eating a healthy diet is key, but some foods help your body produce more progesterone. Foods that can raise progesterone levels include:
- Foods high in magnesium. It’s estimated that as much as 30% of women in developed countries are magnesium deficient.
- Fatty fish, like salmon, can be good to add to your diet.
- Foods rich in vitamin B6 help with hormone regulation. In one study, increasing your intake of vitamin B6 can raise your progesterone levels and reduce estrogen levels to help balance hormones. Foods with B6 include eggs, milk, and fish.
- Make sure you’re having foods with zinc. Zinc helps regulate hormones and helps your ovaries create progesterone and estrogen. Foods high in zinc include seeds, shellfish, and whole grains. A lot of vegetables also have zinc, like peas and mushrooms.
If you drink and want to raise your progesterone levels, you should cut it back or eliminate it. Drinking regularly changes how your body produces estrogen, and excess alcohol intake can raise estrogen production and lower progesterone.
If you have a lot of caffeine, this can raise your estrogen levels, so try to cut back or switch to morning tea instead of coffee.
Avoiding processed foods can help naturally balance your hormones, and you should try buying organic meats and vegetables whenever possible.
High levels of stress affect your hormonal balance, as does being overweight.
How to Increase Progesterone with Supplements
Along with the hormone-balancing lifestyle changes, some progesterone supplements can also help naturally increase progesterone.
Diindolylmethane, or DIM, is a plant nutrient isolated from cruciferous vegetables and helps your body break down and synthesize estrogen. DIM supplements help reduce the “bad” estrogen in your body and balance out the good, which can reduce estrogen dominance and help balance our progesterone levels.
When DIM helps your body eliminate extra estrogen, it can help with conditions like POCS, irregular menstrual cycles, and endometriosis. DIM can also support fertility by helping with immature egg and sperm maturation.
Symptoms of estrogen dominance DIM might help with include PMS, acne, and hair loss related to imbalanced hormones. DIM can also help with endometriosis pain, slow metabolism, and weight gain.
Pregnenolone is a steroid hormone that helps with the production of other hormones, including progesterone, as well as estrogen and DHEA.
Pregnenolone can be directly metabolized to progesterone, and it’s often considered the foundation of all the other key hormones. It’s important to note that pregnenolone isn’t the same as progesterone—it’s the precursor of the hormone.
Pregnenolone is often referred to as a pro-hormone.
If you don’t have enough progesterone or your progesterone levels drop, certain supplements can help.
Also known as chasteberry, vitex is an essential herbal supplement for women’s health and hormones.
Vitex has been used for centuries to support fertility and hormonal health.
Vitex supports the pituitary gland to produce progesterone and luteinizing hormones, which you need for ovulation, and regular menstrual cycles, and to avoid symptoms of hormone imbalance.
If you’re deficient in progesterone or estrogen dominant and you have a luteal phase deficiency, vitex provides support to the endocrine system to produce more progesterone, ovulate regularly, and have a healthy cycle.
B vitamins, in general, are important for mental health and hormonal balance, and vitamin B6 especially. Vitamin B6 can raise progesterone levels, and research finds that women with higher blood levels have miscarriage rates that are reduced by 50%.
Your body needs vitamin B6 to develop the corpus luteum, which makes progesterone.
Oral contraceptives are known to deplete vitamins, including vitamin B6 because they affect how vitamins are absorbed in the gut.
Low progesterone levels can affect fertility and your ability to have a healthy pregnancy, mood, and menstrual cycle. If you think you’re progesterone deficient, there are at-home tests you can use to measure your levels, but you should also speak to your doctor, especially if you’re trying to conceive.
Progesterone levels fluctuate, so it’s important that you talk to your doctor about what they recommend to treat low progesterone or hormone imbalances.
Declining progesterone levels can occur for various reasons, including menopause, obesity, diet, chronic stress, and other factors.
If you do have low levels of progesterone, you might experience symptoms of hormonal imbalances like severe symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, an irregular menstrual cycle, and other health complications.
Blood tests can test progesterone levels, and home tests are available to measure progesterone levels.
Progesterone supplementation, either as a prescription or through the use of supplements, can potentially help balance your hormones.
Please remember this is informational only and is not intended to replace the advice of your healthcare professional.
Our Editorial Process
All of our reviews are completely unbiased. We have an in-depth review and ranking methodology for each of our products. We base our reviews on:
- Peer-reviewed scientific studies and research
- Real customer reviews
- Our own experience using products
- Price and availability
Whenever possible, we review and rank products that we actually use to provide a better understanding of what you can expect.