Serum Progesterone Test

Written by Gretchen Holm
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD

What Is a Serum Progesterone Test?

Both men and women produce progesterone. However, it is produced mainly in the ovaries, which means that women have more than men.

In men, progesterone’s role is in spermatogenesis (sperm creation) among other roles.

In women, this hormone helps prepare the uterus for a fertilized egg. Once a woman is pregnant, progesterone helps her remain pregnant. Progesterone inhibits milk production during pregnancy and the drop in progesterone at the time of labor helps to trigger milk production.

The serum progesterone test is commonly ordered when a woman has trouble getting pregnant. It can give doctors an indication of whether she is ovulating. This, in turn, can provide insight into fertility problems. Your doctor might also choose to perform this test if you are pregnant and he or she thinks you might be at risk of miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. The serum progesterone test is sometimes performed if you have had miscarriages or a stillbirth in the past or if you have bleeding from your uterus.

Serum Progesterone Test

All this test involves on your part is allowing a healthcare provider to draw a sample of your blood. First, he or she will clean the skin directly over a vein. Next, he or she will insert a needle through the cleaned skin into your vein. He or she will draw blood through the needle into a vial or tube, and then send it to a laboratory for testing.

Normal Serum Progesterone Test Results

In women, progesterone is low at the beginning of the menstrual cycle. It peaks several days after ovulation, and then falls back to low levels unless the woman gets pregnant.

Serum progesterone is measured in nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL). Normal results are complicated because they depend greatly on age, gender, pregnancy, and menstrual cycle.

In general, normal results are in the following ranges:

  • women before ovulating, postmenopausal women, and men: under 1 ng/mL
  • women mid-cycle: 5 to 20 ng/mL
  • pregnant women:
  • 1st trimester: 11.2 to 90 ng/mL
  • 2nd trimester: 25.6 to 89.4 ng/mL
  • 3rd trimester: 48.4 to 42.5 ng/mL

What Do Abnormal Serum Progesterone Test Results Mean?

It’s normal to have elevated progesterone levels if you are pregnant. In other, rarer cases, high progesterone may be caused by:

  • adrenal cancer
  • congenital adrenal hyperplasia, a group of disorders that affect the adrenal gland; typically people with this disorder lack an enzyme that the adrenal gland needs to make the hormones cortisol and aldosterone. Cortisol is often referred to as the stress hormone because it is released when you are stressed, but its primary job is to increase blood sugar. Aldosterone is a hormone involved in helping the kidneys to function properly.
  • ovarian cancer

Low progesterone may be caused by:

  • ectopic pregnancy
  • failure to ovulate
  • fetal death
  • lack of periods
  • miscarriage

Keep in mind that progesterone levels can fluctuate greatly over the course of a single day. For example, Tennessee Reproductive Medicine reports variations from 2 ng/mL to 40 ng/mL in a day. (TRM) In other words, a single, slightly abnormal test result may simply be due to your body’s normal progesterone level fluctuations.

Risks of the Serum Progesterone Test

Any time you have your blood drawn, you will probably feel some pain when your healthcare provider inserts the needle into your vein. You might also bleed for a few minutes after the needle is removed. A bruise might develop in the area surrounding the puncture site.

More serious complications are rare. However, they include fainting, vein inflammation, and infection.

Preparing for the Serum Progesterone Test

Several drugs, including birth control pills and progesterone, can affect the results of the serum progesterone test. Tell your doctor about any medications you’re taking. This will give him or her a chance to instruct you to stop taking any that will interfere with your serum progesterone test results.

Was this article helpful? Yes No

Thank you.

Your message has been sent.

We're sorry, an error occurred.

We are unable to collect your feedback at this time. However, your feedback is important to us. Please try again later.


Show Sources

Trending Now

Timeline of an Anaphylactic Reaction
Timeline of an Anaphylactic Reaction
From first exposure to life-threatening complications, learn how quickly an allergy attack can escalate and why it can become life threatening.
How to Evaluate Your Multiple Sclerosis Treatment Plan
How to Evaluate Your Multiple Sclerosis Treatment Plan
Every multiple sclerosis (MS) patient is different, and no single treatment plan works for everyone. Learn more about what to consider when evaluating your MS treatment plan.
Common Asthma Triggers and How to Avoid Them
Common Asthma Triggers and How to Avoid Them
Learn about some of the most common triggers for asthma, as well as measures you can take to minimize your risk of exposure, symptoms, and flares.
Understanding the Progression of Ankylosing Spondylitis
Understanding the Progression of Ankylosing Spondylitis
One serious potential cause of back pain is ankylosing spondylitis. Get an understanding of what this condition is, how it progresses, and potential complications in this slideshow.
Numbness, Muscle Pain and Other RA Symptoms
Numbness, Muscle Pain and Other RA Symptoms
The symptoms of RA are more than just joint pain and stiffness. Common symptoms include loss of feeling, muscle pain, and more. Learn more in this slideshow.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement