I know that many have asked themselves the question, ‘Do Progesterone creams work”. Having used progesterone cream for years, as I wrote about in this post*, I decided I would write a post about the risks and benefits of using the various products that are being advertised. There are many brands on the market, new and familiar, and this article will NOT be provided a recommendation of which one to purchase.
DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL. THIS ADVICE IS BASED ON MY OWN EXPERIENCE AND RESEARCH. THIS ARTICLE SHOULD NOT BE THE ONLY INFORMATION YOU READ BEFORE MAKING ANY HEALTH DECISION ABOUT USING HORMONE CREAMS. I OFFER THIS AS A GUIDE TO HELP YOU IN YOUR RESEARCH.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
What you must know before using hormone creams
First, the answer is ‘Yes, progesterone creams do work!” But, everyone needs to know that there is such a thing as TOO MUCH of a good thing, and that includes PROGESTERONE cream and other hormone creams. Just a few possibilities include, weight gain, extreme sleepiness, bloating, depression, and other things that are the result of imbalanced hormones. I will expand on that later. I mention hormone creams because you can also get estriol cream, but I don’t know much about it. You can also get hormone pellets that are injected under the skin and release hormones constantly, including testosterone, but you must go to a doctor for those. This article refers to natural progesterone cream , most commonly sourced from wild yams.
Second, even though most of these products are available without a prescription and are sold as “natural” supplements, and referred to as bioidentical, they are powerful . Therefore, you MUST do your research before buying and using . This is not a body cream that you can use any old amount and rub all over your body! These creams can have noticeable effects, most of them are good and that’s why you are considering the product . But you must be aware of how these products work or you can end up in worse shape .
Third , I am guessing that many people will choose not to spend the money to get the suggested hormone tests before using , which means you could be buying the wrong supplement for your problem or using the wrong dose. In my opinion, getting tested is very important to be verify that your symptoms are caused by low or imbalanced hormones, but I know not everyone can afford to pay the approximately $300 for self-pay testing. Ideally I would suggest going to your medical doctor if you have insurance and requesting that you get a full panel of hormone blood work. Then you can take that information if you are going to self-treat or you can take it to a women’s clinic if you are going that route.
Bottom line: Too much progesterone is just as bad as too little because what you want is the proper balance of progesterone and estrogen and it varies naturally during your cycle.
As I wrote about in my article about how natural progesterone cream helped me with many health issues, no doctor told me about it. I had to read about it in an article by Ann Landers. This is because doctors don’t really want women messing around with hormones, not necessarily because they have a god-complex, but because hormones are very important to your mental and physical health and should be handled with care. However, it is my opinion that doctors are not doing enough to listen to women when they go for help with symptoms such as irregular periods, heavy or irregular bleeding (which can be life-altering), PMS, depression, weight gain, anxiety, etc. The most commonly recommended treatment for those things is often the birth control pill, which is a synthetic type of hormone treatment, unlike natural progesterone, and it has the risk of many side effects. Or a doctor may put a woman on anti-depressants or anti-anxiety drugs when her real problem is hormone imbalance or low thyroid.
My recommendation, besides reading this short blog, is to get a book, watch videos, and study how your hormones work. There are many more helpful resources available today compared to 25 years ago when I started using the cream. Youtube is a great resource. The original books about progesterone treatment for perimenopause by Dr. John Lee, MD are still worth reading.
Symptoms of hormone imbalance that may suggest you could benefit from progesterone supplementation
- Irregular or no periods
- Heavy bleeding
- Mid-cycle spotting or short cycles
- Headaches during the week before your period
- Fluid retention
- Sore breasts
- Some of these are actually symptoms of estrogen dominance, which simply means too must estrogen compared to how much progesterone you have. Progesterone supplementation helps improve the balance.
Is it low thyroid, estrogen dominance or low progesterone?
The best reason to get tested and the correct tests is that the symptoms of all of the above are very similar. It’s hard to know for sure what is going on if you do not get tested, and even if you do get tested the results can often be confusing because our hormones vary depending on the day of the month. But testing is a good idea so you’ll have a baseline to compare to after treatment. Ideally you would want to get tested several times, especially when you are having symptoms versus when you are not having symptoms. Thyroid levels and progesterone are closely connected. If you have low progesterone, you may have low thyroid as well, or by correcting the progesterone, your thyroid may improve.
What about my diet?
Having healthy eating habits, such as avoiding any food that you may be sensitive to , such as soy, gluten, other grains, dyes, dairy, eggs, etc, cutting out junk food and sugar, and not eating more calories than your body needs to feel good, plays a large role in how healthy your hormones will be, but a lot of women eat well and still have hormone imbalance, so it is not always enough. Everyone can benefit from eating a healthy diet, especially lots of green veggies and healthy fats! But if you still have symptoms, you may want to try adding progesterone cream to your regimen. Some of our hormone problems may be inherited from our mothers, and others are caused by environmental pollution such as chemicals in the water and products we use that actually raise estrogen levels. Food sensitivities, such as gluten sensitivity, can impair your thyroid function as well so do not overlook the importance of monitoring symptoms that coincide with what you eat. Using a food elimination diet and keeping a record is very helpful.
Caution and Patience is Needed
If the product you buy comes with information, please read it carefully.
The proper use and dosing of the cream will vary depending on how strong it is. Be careful to read the ingredients and compare.
Use the cream consistently as described in the instructions for YOUR particular issue. For example, women who are having fairly regular cycles should use it differently than someone who is using it to prevent miscarriage. Women who are in perimenopause will use it differently than women in actual menopause.
ONE COMMON SIDE EFFECT that you may notice . When you first start the cream, your body may have a reaction in which it actually produces MORE estrogen so your symptoms may TEMPORARILY WORSEN. If this happens cut the dose in half, but don’t stop using it. Your body has to adjust.
Hormones do not switch OFF and ON like a light bulb and these creams are not like taking a pill for a headache or pain. Once your body gets used to them, they do work quickly, but remember hormones are powerful chemicals that flow through our blood and affect many bodily functions. Our bodies are sensitive to changing hormone levels which is why we get symptoms, and why the puberty years are so difficult! Good news, progesterone cream works pretty fast for some symptoms, such as to calm and reduce insomnia and anxiety, but to get complete relief from all symptoms will take a few months of menstrual cycles. So GIVE IT TIME.
Personal note about hormones in mid-life : I successfully used progesterone cream for many years. It was very helpful and I was able to have six children after a bout with infertility. I truly believe that I would have been in a very bad way without it. But as I got into my mid 50s and closer to having my last periods, they got more unpredictable, irregular and included times of heavy, prolonged bleeding. During this last year of periods, I was also under a ton of stress from running ultramarathons. Between the dropping hormones from lack of ovulation and the extreme stress, the cream was no longer able to hold off the bleeding and I was forced to go to a doctor for the prescription synthetic type of progestin which is much stronger than the cream. This did work but it also plunged me into a bad depression until I stopped taking it. I just mention this here because there may come a time when you need either a higher dose of natural progesterone, because your body is changing, or you may have to see a doctor for something stronger. You can read more about life’s changing hormones here.
Should I use progesterone after my periods stop? This is just my personal experience, but I know by my research that I am not alone. During the perimenopause months when your hormones are very unbalanced (due to them decreasing some weeks and spiking other weeks if you are still occasionally ovulating), it may not be a good idea to try to use progesterone because it’s just going to add to the chaos. But if you are using it successfully, no need to stop. I stopped using the cream for about one year. But recently I started using it once a day again to see if it would help with the menopausal symptoms of insomnia, low sex drive, and weight gain. In my experience, the cream is helping with those symptoms and I plan to continue using it as long as it helps. It can’t hurt to try it. I use Emerita Pro-Gest Progesterone Cream myself, but there are many brands available. The important thing is to keep a close eye on your body.
CONCLUSION: In my experience, natural progesterone is safe and effective when used correctly. Educate yourself, get tested if possible, and be patient. Try not to get frustrated or expect instant results. Be aware that it will take a few MONTHS to get you back on track if your hormones are very imbalanced. Note: I noticed that some companies are marketing the cream to men. I have no experience with that.