Medically reviewed on December 10, 2023 by Jillian Foglesong Stabile, MD, FAAFP. 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.
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The reproductive systems of women and people assigned female at birth (AFAB) operate under a unique balance of hormones. Estrogen hormone levels play a role in reproductive development and menstrual regularity, while progesterone works to prepare the uterus for pregnancy.
That said, progesterone can cause additional physical effects, too. It’s actually believed that high progesterone may cause a hypnotic effect that can make you feel tired. Let’s explore.
Progesterone is a type of steroid hormone that’s secreted by the corpus luteum, a mass of cells in the ovary. A new corpus luteum forms each time after ovulation, and breaks down when progesterone is no longer needed.
Your hormones affect how you feel at the different stages of the menstrual cycle. During the second half of the menstrual cycle—called the luteal phase—progesterone prepares the uterus for a potential pregnancy by thickening the uterine lining, thickening cervical mucus to prevent bacterial infection, and reducing uterine contractions that may prevent the uterus from accepting a fertilized egg.
When high levels of progesterone are in the body, you will not ovulate. Ovulation refers to the point in the menstrual cycle when a mature egg travels from the ovary and into the fallopian tube in preparation for fertilization.
If the egg is not fertilized, however, the corpus luteum breaks down, progesterone levels decrease, and your body will begin to shed the uterine lining.
If sperm does fertilize the egg, it’ll drop from the fallopian tube and implant itself into the uterus. Accordingly, progesterone production continues, ensuring that the uterine lining is rich in blood vessels, which help to provide nutrients to the growing fetus.
Once the placenta forms, it will take over progesterone production from the corpus luteum. As the pregnancy progresses, progesterone levels will increase.
Does progesterone make you tired? Progesterone is known as the “relaxing hormone,” and it has a mildly sedative effect. For this reason, low progesterone levels can disrupt your sleep-wake cycle.
For example, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), causes an irregularly high level of testosterone production, which can decrease progesterone levels in the body. Studies have found that lower progesterone levels can contribute to sleep difficulties and put people at a higher risk of developing sleep apnea, in which people can stop breathing for short periods throughout the night.
In people who are pregnant, however, low progesterone levels can cause fatigue and low blood sugar.
Some women may also take progesterone orally in conjunction with estrogens to help regulate the menstrual cycle; prevent changes in the uterus during menopause, and treat amenorrhea—the absence of periods. In these cases, the medicine can have side effects that may make a person more tired, including :
See more about: What Does an Early Period Mean?
If you’re experiencing abnormal amounts of fatigue or weakness, consult with your healthcare provider. They will likely order a blood test to assess your hormone levels and check for any hormonal imbalances that may be disrupting how you function day to day.
During phases in which your progesterone levels are naturally elevated, take the time to prioritize self-care. Several strategies to combat tiredness throughout the day include :
When progesterone levels increase during the menstrual cycle, it’s not uncommon to also experience weakness and fatigue since the hormone can have a sedative effect. If you’re having difficulty managing your symptoms, a healthcare provider via Everlywell’s telehealth service may be able to help.
During a private virtual session via our women’s online health portal, we’ll sit down with you to address feelings of tiredness. If needed, we can provide lifestyle recommendations and prescription medication to help you return to feeling your best.
Jillian Foglesong Stabile, MD, FAAFP is a board-certified Family Physician. Since completing her residency training in 2010, she’s been practicing full-scope family medicine in a rural setting. Dr. Foglesong Stabile’s practice includes caring for patients of all ages for preventative care as well as chronic disease management. She also provides prenatal care and delivers babies. Dr. Foglesong Stabile completed a teaching fellowship in 2020 and teaches the family medicine clerkship for one of her local medical schools. Dr. Foglesong Stabile’s favorite thing about family medicine is the variety of patients she sees in her clinical practice.