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Hormones

What Does Progesterone Do? The Top 8 Impacts.

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.

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 basal 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 recent 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.

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.

Protects against coronary artery disease

Researchers have long pointed to estrogen as the reason why women have heart attacks when they are 10 years older, on average, than men. However, a large randomized controlled trial found no support for the idea that estrogen therapy prevented heart disease. Recent research indicates that during the 30 – 40 years of a woman’s reproductive life, normal levels of both estrogen and progesterone are needed to prevent or delay heart disease in women.


View sources

Influence of menstrual cycle phase on resting-state functional connectivity in naturally cycling, cigarette-dependent women

Progesterone and the Luteal Phase

Progesterone and Bone: Actions Promoting Bone Health in Women

Progesterone reduces wakefulness in sleep EEG and has no effect on cognition in healthy postmenopausal women.

Effects of conjugated equine estrogen in postmenopausal women with hysterectomy: the Women's Health Initiative randomized controlled trial.

Progesterone Within Ovulatory Menstrual Cycles Needed for Cardiovascular Protection: An Evidence-Based Hypothesis

Lindsay Meisel

Lindsay Meisel is the Head of Content at Ava. She has over a decade of experience writing about science, technology, and health, with a focus on women's health and the menstrual cycle. Her work has been featured on The Fertility Hour, The Birth Hour, The Breakthrough Journal, and The Rumpus.

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