Progesterone along with estrogen are responsible for fertility and pregnancy in females as they work together to regulate monthly menstrual cycles. The chemical compound is manufactured in the adrenal glands and the ovaries. Along with playing a role in reproduction, progesterone serves as a buffer against stress. Abnormally low levels of the hormone are linked to various medical conditions that include infertility, irregular monthly cycles, migraine headaches, miscarriages, PMS and polycystic ovarian syndrome. Additionally, when progesterone levels decline, estrogen levels increase, which researchers also believe leads to depression symptoms.
Low Progesterone Symptoms
Progesterone Chain Reaction
The hormone is necessary to make estrogen, testosterone and other corticosteroidal and steroidal hormones. When progesterone levels become insufficient, the body cannot make these vital compounds. As a result, estrogen levels may suffer, which has an effect on the neurotransmitter serotonin. The chemical compound is responsible for regulating sleep/wake cycles, how we interpret pain and mood regulation. Low testosterone levels also adversely affect mood.
When under stress, the adrenal glands release cortisol. Habitual stress eventually depletes the adrenal glands of the hormone and adrenal fatigue occurs, which leads to anxiety, depression, insomnia and an inability to deal with stress. Without enough progesterone, the body cannot replace cortisol. The thyroid gland cannot function efficiently without the help of progesterone, which assists thyroid hormones. Depression is a common symptom of hypothyroidism.
Effects on the Brain
The limbic system in the brain is where emotions are generated. This region is also known to contain the majority of progesterone receptors. The hormone acts as a natural monoamine oxidase inhibitor by increasing dopamine and serotonin levels. The compound additionally interacts with GABA receptors, which increases the effectiveness of GABA. GABA is another compound that balances moods and encourages sleep.
When progesterone levels drop during regular monthly cycles, estrogen levels rise. As a result, the body retains more copper and eliminates more zinc. These mineral imbalances are also thought to contribute to depression symptoms. Progesterone levels also gradually decrease as a woman approaches menopause. One study of women going through the various phases of menopause found that when the brain was depleted of the hormone, women experienced a wide range of symptoms that ranged from anxiety and depression to rage.