Progesterone cream is a wonderful product for women in perimenopause and menopause, or even earlier as a therapy for estrogen dominance. When people think of female hormones, estrogen is usually the first thing that comes to mind. Like estrogen, progesterone is a female sex hormone, and may be even more important for women in a number of instances.
During the reproductive years, progesterone prepares the uterine lining for pregnancy. Each month progesterone levels rise after ovulation and unless a woman become pregnant, those levels drop again to trigger a monthly menstrual period. Progesterone plays an important role in balancing the effects of estrogen and other female hormones. If a person has too much estrogen and not enough progesterone their body may be thrown off balance. During menopause, hormone imbalance can lead to symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, vaginal dryness, irritability, or decreased sex drive. During the reproductive years, hormone imbalance may cause premenstrual complaints such as mood swings, breast tenderness, or headaches.
What happens to progesterone leading up to menopause?
As a woman approaches menopause, progesterone is the first hormone to decrease, which is followed by fluctuating estrogen levels. This beginning phase, called perimenopause, can start as early as the late thirties or early forties and last as long as ten years. During this time, periods become more and more irregular. Some months a woman may not ovulate, which can disrupt the estrogen/progesterone balance, causing symptoms including bloating, anxiety, insomnia, headaches, and irritability.
What happens to progesterone during and after menopause?
After menopause, the ovaries cease to produce progesterone cream, while the body will continue to produce up to 40% of the levels of estrogen it did before menopause. A lower level of progesterone can produce increased night sweats, insomnia, irritability, and mood swings.
How to use progesterone cream for menopause
Progesterone is easily absorbed into the blood stream through the skin. The recommended use for progesterone for menopausal symptoms is a pea sized amount of progesterone cream applied to fatty tissue (stomach, thighs, inside of upper arms) once or twice a day for three weeks with a one week rest period, although some menopausal women choose to take progesterone every day without a break. If you are still experiencing a menstrual period, count the first day of your period as day 1; wait 7 days and then begin applying progesterone cream.
How to use progesterone cream for estrogen dominance
Progesterone cream is primarily taken for perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms, but it can also be helpful for women experiencing estrogen dominance, or excessive estrogen in the body. Some of the symptoms of estrogen dominance are abnormal periods, hormonally related headaches, uterine fibroids, blood clots, breast tenderness, thyroid dysfunction, breast tenderness, hair loss, and more. There is a good article on estrogen dominance with a full list of symptoms here.
For women still menstruating who wish to take progesterone cream to balance against estrogen dominance, progesterone cream should be applied during the last 14 days of their menstrual cycle. Many women have roughly a 28 day cycle, but women can count the days of their menstrual cycle to get a more accurate number beginning with day 1 for the first day of their period.
A small amount of women experience “PMS-like” symptoms when they first begin progesterone cream. This is simply a result of hormone adjustment and should subside shortly. Most women experience no adverse reactions. Benefits can be seen in the first few weeks but some women may not experience the full benefit for eight weeks ( and a minority of women may take up to six months to see the full benefits).
Safety of progesterone cream
It is important to look for natural, bio identical progesterone cream, which is made from wild yams. Wild yam extract is not the same as bio identical progesterone, and does not work the same way in the body.
Bio-identical progesterone (the same type of progesterone that is produced in the body) is not the same as synthetic progestin. Synthetic progestins have been linked to increased cancer risk, but natural, bio-identical progesterone has not. There was a large scale French study to determine the safety of synthetic progestin vs. natural progesterone, and it was found that using bio-identical progesterone did not raise cancer risk whereas the use of synthetic progestins did result in a “significant increase in cancer risk”.
*Much of the information from the article was taken from a wonderful, but sadly out of print, pamphlet on progesterone by the non-profit organization, Women in Balance.