Why progesterone is important for women with PCOS. And how to safely increase your progesterone levels.
Researching safer choices for my daughters
When my two daughters were in their teens, they had the worse time dealing with painful and unpredictable menstrual cycles.
Specialists confirmed their symptoms pointed to Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS for short).
PCOS is the most common condition in women, affecting 1 in 10 women of childbearing age.
PCOS is one of the leading causes of female infertility.
The diagnosis of PCOS freaked them out. They imagined it would prevent them from having children one day. And I wasn’t going to let that happen.
Their doctors prescribed The Contraceptive Pill which carried some serious health risks. I refused to let that be the only option open to them. So, supporting their hormonal health (and my own) became my passion for the next twenty years.
My research provided solutions to ensure fertility when they decided to become mothers.
I wrote and published a self-help eBook, Progesterone & Polycystic Ovaries: A 60 Day Guide to Using Natural Progesterone distributed under my website Natural-Progesterone-Advisory-Network.com (decommissioned in 2017).
Fast forward to 2022, my beautiful daughters — now in their mid-thirties — have seven children between them. And they remain free of PCOS symptoms by rubbing on progesterone cream when they feel they need to.
Mission accomplished mum!!
For young women in search of tried and tested information about PCOS they can trust, here are a few chapters from my eBook.
What is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?
In each menstrual cycle, follicles grow on the ovaries. Eggs develop within those follicles, one of which will reach maturity faster than the others and be released into the fallopian tubes. This is called ‘ovulation’. The remaining follicles will degenerate.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome occurs when abnormal hormone levels in a woman allow many eggs to develop in the ovaries, but not be released.
These excess eggs turn into many small benign cysts on the ovaries under a thick, white covering, which prevents the release of an egg (anovulation). It causes your menstrual cycle to be irregular, or you may have no periods at all.
The main hormones that are made in the ovaries are estrogen and progesterone — the main ‘female’ hormones. These hormones help with the development of breasts, and are the main controllers of the menstrual cycle. The ovaries also normally make small amounts of ‘male’ hormones (androgens) such as testosterone.
PCOS is referred to as a “metabolic” disorder. In other words, there are numerous factors in basic body processes that have gone awry.
Because your body is a unified whole, a problem or dysfunction in one area causes dysfunction in other areas. Polycystic ovary syndrome is a dysfunction related to your whole body, not just your ovaries.
“Syndrome” simply means a set of symptoms that occur together in a pattern.
The symptoms of Polycystic Ovaries include …
- menstrual periods — abnormal, irregular or scanty
- absence of period — usually but not always, after having one or more
- periods during puberty — then it stops
- obesity — beginning tummy, hips, upper body
- elevated insulin levels, insulin resistance, or diabetes
- thinning scalp hair
- increase body hair growth, unusual growth and distribution of body hair
- decreased breast size
- aggravation of acne
- oily skin
- hyper-pigmented skin folds (acanthosis nigricans)
- high cholesterol levels
- elevated blood pressure
- multiple hormone imbalances, commonly including:- androgens (testosterone)
– FSH (follicle stimulating hormone)
– LH (luteinizing hormone)
– thyroid hormones
Many women only exhibit a few of these symptoms; some show no signs at all.
Women with polycystic ovaries start having menstrual periods at a normal age. But then, after a year or two of regular menstruation, the periods become quite irregular and then infrequent.
Women with PCOS are at a higher risk for a number of illnesses, including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer of the uterus (endometrial cancer).
Much of this risk can be reversed by exercise and weight loss.
It is important for women with PCOS to have regular periods. If a woman does not have regular periods, her risk of uterine (endometrial) cancer increases.
What are the causes of Polycystic Ovaries?
PCOS has been around as long as there have been infertile women.
In fact, it’s believed that it affects 5–10% of women of reproductive age regardless of ethnicity and is the leading cause of infertility.
Polycystic ovaries and polycystic ovary syndrome have been associated with one or more of these factors:
- Genetic predisposition
- Insulin resistance or hyperinsulinism (high blood levels of insulin)
- Hyperandrogenism (excessive production of male hormones)
- Abnormality of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis (organ/hormonal disorder)
- Environmental chemical pollution (hormonal disruptors)
- Food adulteration (excitatory amino acids, for example)
- Chronic inflammation
No one is quite sure what causes PCOS. Although women with PCOS often have a mother or sister with the condition, there is not enough scientific evidence to prove that the condition may be inherited.
There is no specific diagnostic test that unequivocally identifies PCOS.
The diagnosis is based on the varying presence of three specific elements:
- excess androgen (testosterone),
- absence of ovulation, and
- ultrasound assessment of your ovaries.
The ovaries of women with PCOS frequently contain a number of small cysts, hence the name poly (many) cystic ovary syndrome. A similar number of cysts may occur in women without PCOS. Therefore, the cysts themselves do not seem to be the cause of the problem.
A malfunction of the body’s blood sugar control system (insulin system) is frequent in women with PCOS, and researchers believe that these abnormalities may be related to the development of PCOS.
Higher levels of insulin can sometimes cause patches of darkened skin on the back of your neck, under your arms, and in your groin area (inside upper thighs).
It is known that the ovaries of women with PCOS produce excess amounts of male hormone known as androgen. This excessive production of male hormones may be a result of abnormalities in insulin production.
There are suggested links between exposure to environmental pollutants that mimic estrogen and the developing baby’s tissue.
Laboratory experiments, wildlife studies, and the human DES experience link hormone disruption with a variety of male and female reproductive problems that appear to be on the rise in the general human population — problems ranging from endometriosis, testicular cancer, infertility, and in there somewhere is PCOS.
It is argued that if a female embryo’s ovarian follicles are compromised through exposure to these chemicals, this damage may not be apparent until after puberty.
What other factors contribute to PCOS?
- stress — high cortisol levels
- lack of exercise— being overweight
- poor nutrition — too much sugar and highly refined carbohydrates
- Birth Control Pill— shuts down normal ovary function
- prescription drugs — that may impair the functioning of the limbic brain
What is the treatment if you have PCOS?
Treatment of PCOS is aimed at reducing its symptoms and helping to prevent future complications.
Treatment goals are to promote ovulation, prevent endometrial hyperplasia, counterbalance the effects of androgen, and reduce insulin resistance.
While some members of the medical profession believe there is no cure for PCOS, others like the late Dr John Lee believed PCOS could be resolved in most women within a few months with a strict change of diet, an increase in exercise, and supplementing her progesterone using a topical cream.
Women with PCOS generally don’t ovulate, therefore they don’t produce healthy levels of the hormone progesterone each month, leading to estrogen dominance.
To dive deeper, a women’s body produces the bulk of her body’s progesterone at the site (on her ovary) where her egg is released each month during ovulation. It’s called the corpus luteum. The corpus luteum is a mass of cells that forms in the ovary, and is responsible for the production of progesterone in the menstrual cycle — and during early pregnancy.
If a woman’s body fails to ovulate each month (as is the case with PCOS), then she is unable to make adequate levels of progesterone to stay ‘balanced’.
Topping up her body’s progesterone levels will facilitate a normal menstrual cycle each month while opposing estrogen dominance linked to uterine & breast cancer.
The most common form of treatment for PCOS is the Birth Control Pill. Your physician may recommend a low-dose combined Contraceptive Pill, or a progestin-only pill to manage PCOS.
The Contraceptive Pill helps PCOS through two key mechanisms. Firstly, the Pill helps to regulate the menstrual cycle, and secondly, the Pill reduces the ability of the ovaries to produce hormones.
A very large study reviewing 24 different long-term studies from around the world has shown that the use of current Contraceptive Pill for more than five years approximately doubles the risk of cervical cancer compared to women that never use the contraceptive pill.
Doctors continue to recommend the Contraceptive Pill to women with PCOS because it is perceived the benefits of its protection against ovarian and endometrial cancer outweigh the cost of the increased cervical cancer risk.
And yet, supplementing with biodentical progesterone can address PCOS symptoms (related to low progesterone levels) while providing protection against the risk of reproductive cancers.
Doctors unfamiliar with bioidentical hormone treatment protocols tend to completely overlook progesterone as a safe hormone replacement alternative.
Progesterone is considered safer than the Pill because a woman’s body can recognise the hormone she rubs onto her body as being ‘identical’ to the progesterone her ovaries would make.
Safe = no long lists of side-effects!
In the treatment of PCOS, progesterone supplementation can enhance ovulation, prevent endometrial hyperplasia by helping induce regular periods, counterbalance the effects of androgen, and have a positive influence on insulin resistance.
Addressing weight problems is very important in the treatment of this disease. Reducing weight is imperative to a favourable outcome with or without progesterone therapy. Continued weight gain leads to continued storage of upper body fat which, in turn, generates higher levels of male hormones, and further hormone disruption and insulin resistance results. This cycle becomes vicious, and the disease worsens.
It’s important to manage stress. Stress of any kind, including trauma, inflammation or inflammatory diseases, emotional and even chemical stress, can induce high levels of cortisol and this leads to significant reduction of progesterone, resulting in estrogen dominance.
Women with PCOS can have children and have a meaningful, fulfilling life — though some habits may need to change.
If this information was helpful to you, perhaps you’d consider buying me a cup of coffee.
Love, light & laughter