Using Natural Progesterone Cream in Perimenopause

April 20, 2020.

You may have heard of treating perimenopause symptoms with natural progesterone cream. Progesterone’s main role in your body is to support a healthy pregnancy and regulate your menstrual cycle. Outside of its primary functions, progesterone compliments the effects of estrogen and testosterone. Additionally, some studies have suggested that replacing progesterone can help relieve some of the 34 symptoms of perimenopause.

What is progesterone?

Progesterone is a female sex hormone responsible for regulating your menstrual cycle and maintaining pregnancy. One of its most important roles is preparing the uterus for pregnancy by thickening the uterine lining. If a fertilized egg does not implant, progesterone levels fall and you shed that uterine lining with your period. On the contrary, if an egg is fertilized and successfully implants in the uterine wall, progesterone will maintain the uterine lining until delivery. Also, progesterone regulates breastfeeding and breast development.

What is progesterone used for?

Progesterone can be supplied in topical creams and gels, oral medication, and suppositories. If you have low progesterone, you may need to treat it if you are having the following symptoms:

  • Abnormal periods
  • Missed or late periods
  • Decreased libido
  • Breast tenderness, or fibrocystic breast tissue
  • Fibroids
  • Infertility
  • Miscarriage
  • Spotting during pregnancy
  • Age-related changes to your cycle (i.e. … perimenopause)

To restore balance in sex hormones during perimenopause, some women opt for natural progesterone creams as opposed to other treatment options like synthetic hormone replacement therapy. Natural progesterone may be helpful in alleviating:

  • Fatigue
  • Hot flashes and night sweats
  • Depression and mood swings
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Loss of bone density
  • Low libido
  • Dry, wrinkling skin

Should I use natural progesterone cream to treat my perimenopause symptoms?

Progesterone is derived from either synthetic or natural sources. Natural progesterone creams are made from plant-based sources. For example, diosgenin is the name of the phytoestrogen (plant compound) that is derived from soybeans and wild yams and is chemically converted to progesterone.

When you are shopping for natural progesterone cream, it is important to determine if the diosgenin has been chemically converted to progesterone. This is because the body is unable to convert diosgenin to progesterone. Therefore, products that only contain diosgenin will likely yield few, if any, results, because your body isn’t actually getting progesterone.

There are many products available over-the-counter and with a prescription. If you are interested in getting a handle on your perimenopause symptoms with progesterone, it is best to talk with your doctor. Importantly, many over-the-counter products are not regulated by the FDA because there are different regulations for supplements and “natural” or plant-based pharmacological products. Furthermore, some over-the-counter products can cause high levels of progesterone in your body, which may lead to adverse effects.

If you are considering any form of hormone therapy for your perimenopause symptoms, it is important to talk with your doctor before experimenting.

How to use progesterone cream

Each product may contain different instructions on application and duration of use. For example, some products recommend daily use whereas others recommend use during certain days of your cycle. Similarly, some creams recommend a dime-size amount applied to the vagina whereas others may recommend insertion for optimal absorption by your bloodstream.

Progesterone cream side effects

There is little research available that studies whether or not there are differences in side effects between natural and synthetic progesterone. However, some women report they have fewer side effects with natural progesterone. Synthetic and natural progesterone products may cause the following side effects:

  • Weight gain
  • Breast tenderness
  • Bloating
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings
  • Blurry vision

As many topical options are available, some women may report irritation at the application site. If you experience side effects that do not go away with continued use, meet with your doctor to discuss continuing progesterone or trying a different therapy.

Disclaimer: This is not medical advice, does not take the place of medical advice from your physician, and is not intended to treat or cure any disease. Patients should see a qualified medical provider for assessment and treatment.

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Julia Walker
perry expert Julia (RN, BSN, BA) is a registered nurse based in Colorado. Julia's nursing background in women’s health has ranged from neonatal and postpartum care to labor and delivery, to outpatient gynecological medicine for both adolescent and adult populations. She specializes in helping women optimize their health during perimenopause and beyond.

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