Poor progesterone—it doesn’t get nearly as much attention as estrogen. Everyone knows estrogen as the “female” hormone but hardly anyone talks about estrogen’s partner in crime, progesterone. And it’s too bad, because progesterone is a super hormone with the power to help women sleep better, grow stronger, and feel more relaxed.
To increase your hormone IQ, read about the top eight impacts of progesterone.
- Sustains the uterine lining. High levels of progesterone after ovulation help thicken and maintain the uterine lining. A short luteal phase (under 10 days) can indicate low levels of progesterone, which can make it harder to get pregnant because the egg doesn’t have enough time to burrow and implant.
- Builds strong bones. The process of maintaining strong bones involves the removal of old bone (accomplished by cells called osteoclasts) and replacing it with new bone (created by osteoblasts). While estrogen is involved in maintaining existing bone, only progesterone can help build new bone by stimulating osteoblast activity. Both irregular cycles and short luteal phases are risk factors for bone loss.
- Boosts metabolism. You know how your body temperature rises by a half a degree after ovulation? That’s because of rising levels of progesterone. Progesterone increases your metabolic rate, causing your body temperature to rise, increasing your appetite and energy levels.
- Helps you quit bad habits. A new study from the University of Pennsylvania showed that during the luteal phase, when progesterone was high, there was a stronger active connection between a part of the brain responsible for cravings and rewards, and a part responsible for decision making. The researchers hypothesize that the change may enhance cognitive control, making it easier to quit bad habits like smoking and drinking.
- Aids sleep. Progesterone is known to help women fall asleep faster, have less disturbed deep sleep, and stay asleep longer.
- Smooths skin and improves hair growth. Progesterone decreases the male hormones androgens, resulting in faster-growing hair and smooth, acne-free skin.
- Protects against breast and endometrial cancer. Progesterone counteracts estrogen’s stimulating effect on breast and uterine tissue.
- It makes you constipated. It’s a muscle relaxant, so it can have a dampening effect on the normal bowel contractions that help you stay regular. High progesterone is the reason why so many pregnant women complain of constipation, and it’s also the reason why some women get constipated after ovulation.