Benefits of progesterone after menopause

Medically reviewed by Rosanna Sutherby, PharmD on March 25, 2021. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.


As a postmenopausal or menopausal woman, you may experience frustrating symptoms like hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and weight gain. While some postmenopausal women may find that these menopausal symptoms dissipate after a few years, you may be one of the women who deals with them for a decade or longer.

If you have used a Postmenopause Test to test your hormone levels and are now looking for relief, hormone replacement therapy with progesterone could be for you. Read on to learn about the benefits of progesterone after menopause, the types of progesterone therapy, and whether you should take this hormone as a form of menopausal hormone therapy.

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How does progesterone benefit a woman’s body?

Like estrogen, progesterone is a hormone that your ovaries produce. These hormones work together to make it possible for reproductive-age women to conceive and carry a baby.

Estrogen plays an important role in a woman’s life. At puberty, it helps with breast growth and triggers the start of the menstrual cycle. Throughout your reproductive years, estrogen helps regulate the menstrual cycle and makes childbearing possible. This hormone also plays a role in controlling cholesterol, helping with mood, and protecting bone and heart health.

Progesterone helps prepare the endometrium (uterine lining) for a potential pregnancy after ovulation (the release of an egg). This hormone also stops the uterus from contracting, which could cause the body to reject a fertilized egg. During pregnancy, progesterone encourages the body to support the endometrium that nourishes the growing baby. This hormone also helps the body start producing breast milk.

What happens to hormone levels during menopause and postmenopause?

During menopause, your hormone levels of estrogen and progesterone decrease. This results in both estrogen and progesterone deficiency, which can cause a variety of menopausal symptoms. Some of the most common ones are vasomotor symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats. Low progesterone can also cause abnormal uterine bleeding.

Low progesterone and low estrogen levels both during and after menopause can increase the risk of developing heart disease and osteoporosis. Thankfully, one of the benefits of progesterone after menopause is that it can help improve many menopause symptoms, stabilize a hormone imbalance, and reduce certain health risks, such as abnormal bleeding after menopause.

What types of progesterone are available for postmenopausal women?

If you have low progesterone after menopause and want to improve your progesterone levels, hormone therapy may be able to help. Before getting started with postmenopausal hormone therapy though, it’s important to know about the different sources of progesterone and the many ways to take it.

Sources of progesterone

You may have heard the term “progestins” and wondered if it is the same thing as progesterone. Progesterone is the hormone that your body makes, while progestin hormone refers to progesterone-like products that scientists have created to act like natural progesterone in the body. This means that progestin is synthetic, or manmade.

Man-made progesterone, also known as bioidentical progesterone, is designed to help treat a hormonal imbalance or low progesterone levels. These products have become quite popular over the years, as many people view them as safer alternatives to taking natural progesterone.

There are different forms of bioidentical progesterone. Some are premade by a drug company and others are custom-made at a pharmacy through a process called compounding. The benefit of premade drugs is that many have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means they have been through safety and purity testing. As a result, many medical societies recommend using premade drugs over custom-compounded hormone therapy for menopause management.

Method of progesterone delivery

Every woman is different, so progesterone therapy comes in a wide variety of doses and delivery methods.

  • Oral progesterone: One popular form is oral micronized progesterone, and it comes in a pill form.
  • Transdermal progesterone cream: This type of cream gets absorbed through the skin. Progesterone gels, patches, and sprays are also available.
  • Injectable progesterone: This type of progesterone is often available as medroxyprogesterone acetate, more commonly known as Depo-Provera.
  • Implanted pellets: You can get progesterone pellets placed under the skin, and they will continue to release this hormone.

It’s important to note that some people claim that you can get progesterone from natural sources like soybeans and yams. However, these foods need to be altered in a laboratory so that your body can use them as progesterone. As a result, the soybeans and yams on the market as progesterone therapy aren’t natural and are not recommended for treating a hormonal imbalance.

Do you need progesterone therapy after menopause?

Hormone replacement therapy with progesterone can be a great option to address common postmenopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats. Another one of the benefits of progesterone after menopause is that it can also help with other symptoms and concerns.

  • Vaginal symptoms, including dryness, itching, burning, and painful intercourse
  • Bone loss and fracture due to osteoporosis
  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Mood changes and disorders like depression and anxiety

Researchers have also found several other possible benefits of progesterone after menopause.

  • In one study, taking progesterone at bedtime was associated with a higher quality of deep sleep and less severe night sweats.
  • Another study found that taking progesterone may improve visual and verbal memory in menopausal women. However, other studies didn’t find these same cognitive benefits.

While estrogen is often the primary ingredient in many forms of hormone replacement, you’ll also want to consider including progesterone to reduce menopausal and postmenopausal symptoms.

This is especially true if you still have your uterus. Progesterone helps thin the uterine lining and prevents endometrial hyperplasia (a uterine lining that’s too thick). Doing so helps reduce the risk of developing endometrial, or uterine, cancer. There’s also evidence that taking estrogen and progesterone together may reduce the risk of getting colorectal cancer.

How much progesterone should I take after menopause?

The best way to answer this question is to speak with your doctor. Your healthcare provider can review your health history and symptoms to determine the best progesterone dose for your unique concerns and needs.

In general, with hormones like estrogen and progesterone, the goal should be to address your symptoms by taking the lowest dosage for the shortest amount of time possible.

Is it safe to take progesterone after menopause?

Yes, it is generally safe to take progesterone after menopause. However, as with any medication, some women may experience certain side effects.

  • Stomach pain and bloating
  • Breakthrough bleeding in newly menopausal women
  • Breast tenderness
  • Headaches
  • Mood changes

Your likelihood of experiencing these side effects, as well as the type and intensity, vary depending on several factors. The dosage is the biggest factor. However, how progesterone interacts with your hormone receptors and how your body processes it can also influence whether you have side effects.

In addition to these side effects, it’s also important to mention that estrogen and progesterone therapy as well as estrogen therapy on its own can increase the risk of certain health issues.

  • Much like the birth control pill, patch and ring, hormone replacement therapy can increase the risk of developing blood clots in the legs and lungs. It can also increase the risk of stroke. This risk appears to be the lowest among women between the ages of 50 and 59.
  • The risk of developing breast cancer also increases when continuously taking estrogen and progesterone therapy. This risk appears to decrease after discontinuing hormone therapy. If you have had breast cancer, you should talk to your doctor before considering hormone therapy as a menopause treatment.

How can you reduce your risk of having progesterone side effects?

For many women, the benefits of progesterone after menopause outweigh the risks of taking it. Additionally, you can take several steps to reduce your risk of experiencing side effects and health risks from taking progesterone for menopause.

Talk to your doctor to find the best progesterone product and delivery method for you. For example, if you’re only looking for relief from vaginal symptoms related to menopause, your doctor might recommend a low-dose vaginal cream instead of an oral pill or skin patch.

Take the least amount of medication necessary. As mentioned earlier, you should strive to take the lowest dose for the shortest amount of time to treat your menopausal concerns. This is true for most medications.

Keep following up with your doctor. While you’re taking progesterone and/or estrogen for menopause management, be sure to regularly visit your doctor. He or she can provide important screenings and help you determine whether the benefits of progesterone after menopause continue to outweigh any risks.

Finally, making healthy lifestyle choices in other areas can also help decrease the likelihood of you experiencing adverse health consequences. This means you should make time for regular physical activity and eat a nutritious and balanced diet to maintain a healthy weight. You should also avoid drinking and cigarette smoking as well as take time to manage stress and get treatment for any chronic health conditions.

Learn more about your postmenopausal hormone health with the Everlywell at-home Postmenopause Test, which allows you to easily check your estradiol and progesterone levels from the comfort of home.


References

1. What is Estrogen?. Hormone Health Network. URL. Accessed March 25, 2021.

2. Progesterone and Progestins. Hormone Health Network. URL. Accessed March 25, 2021.

3. Bioidentical Hormones. Cleveland Clinic. URL. Accessed March 25, 2021.

4. In Brief: Could estrogen help colon cancer patients?. Harvard Medical School. URL. Accessed March 25, 2021.

5. Regidor PA. Progesterone in Peri- and Postmenopause: A Review. Geburtshilfe Frauenheilkd. 2014;74(11):995-1002.

6. The Experts Do Agree About Hormone Therapy. North American Menopause Society. URL. Accessed March 25, 2021.

7. Hitchcock CL, Prior JC. Oral micronized progesterone for vasomotor symptoms--a placebo-controlled randomized trial in healthy postmenopausal women. Menopause. 2012;19(8):886-893.

8. Berent-Spillson A, Briceno E, Pinsky A, et al. Distinct cognitive effects of estrogen and progesterone in menopausal women. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2015;59:25-36.

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