During menopause, your body drastically reduces its production of reproductive hormones, and your periods gradually stop.
For many, the disappearance of periods is a positive thing — but the side effects can be hard to handle. Hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, insomnia, and weight gain are just a few of the symptoms that accompany menopause.
For some, these symptoms are mild. For others, they’re so disruptive that medical interventions are necessary. Progesterone, either by itself or with estrogen, can relieve some of these symptoms.
If you’re considering progesterone or hormone therapy to relieve menopause symptoms, here’s what you need to know about the benefits and risks.
Progesterone is often called the pregnancy hormone. During the reproductive years, progesterone influences the preparation of the uterus for possible pregnancy.
It also plays a role in the formation of a mucus barrier around the cervix and the availability of breast milk.
This hormone also affects a wide range of other body functions, so when the ovaries don’t make as much progesterone, you may experience:
The most effective way to relieve menopause symptoms is with hormone replacement therapies.
If you don’t have a uterus, the most common therapy is estrogen alone.
If you do have a uterus, a combination of estrogen and progesterone is often recommended because there’s evidence that estrogen on its own increases the risk of uterine cancer and other serious health problems.
When estrogen and progesterone are taken together, it’s often in pill-form. Progesterone on its own is also a pill that contains micronized progesterone, which is easily metabolized in the body.
While you’re still having periods, your uterus sheds its lining (the endometrium) every month. Once your periods stop, the endometrium remains in place.
Taking estrogen causes the lining to thicken — and a thicker endometrium increases your risk of endometrial cancer.
Progesterone reduces hot flashes
They tracked the number and severity of these symptoms and found that taking an oral dose of progesterone every day decreased both the number of hot flashes or night sweats and the intensity of each episode.
Progesterone also helps with menopause-related sleep problems
One of the most troublesome symptoms of menopause is delayed or interrupted sleep.
This study also confirmed the results of earlier trials that showed progesterone had the ability to reduce the severity of night sweats, which can awaken people from an otherwise sound sleep.
Progesterone may also deliver some cognitive benefits
During menopause, many people describe a fogginess in their thinking, along with some memory problems.
There’s some evidence that progesterone may protect against cognitive decline if hormone replacement therapy starts early in the menopause process.
Some researchers found that progesterone improved visual and verbal memory for people in menopause.
However, the evidence isn’t clear-cut. Some
In any case, it’s important to note that there’s no evidence that progesterone harms your thinking abilities.
Yes. It’s possible you could have an allergic reaction to progesterone, or you could experience any of the following side effects:
- abdominal pain or nausea
- fluid retention or weight gain
- breast tenderness
- vaginal bleeding
Progesterone isn’t recommended for everyone. Talk to your healthcare provider about alternatives to progesterone if you:
- are over 60 years old
- have been menopausal for longer than 10 years
- have a personal or family history of breast cancer
- are at a higher risk for dementia, heart attack, stroke, blood clots, osteoporosis, or liver disease
If you want to reduce menopause symptoms without hormone therapy, there are other options.
- Consider natural products. Natural alternatives like black cohosh or evening primrose oil may help reduce hot flashes and night sweats.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy body weight, improves sleep, and eases the anxiety and mood shifts that can accompany menopause.
- Be mindful of what you eat. Avoid spicy food, caffeine, and alcohol, all of which can trigger hot flashes and night sweats.
- Find healthy ways to manage stress. When you’re stressed, it can impact your sleep and mood. It can also increase the frequency of hot flashes. Consider yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, tai chi, or spending time on a favorite hobby to keep your stress manageable.
Progesterone is often combined with estrogen to treat the symptoms of menopause. In combination, these two hormones can reduce the hot flashes, night sweats, and other side effects of menopause.
Progesterone thins the uterine lining, helping to prevent the development of endometrial cancer. Taken on its own or with estrogen, progesterone may also improve sleep and protect some cognitive functions.
Progesterone isn’t for everyone, however. Talk to a healthcare professional about whether it’s safe for you. You’ll want to fully understand the risks and rewards of using progesterone to manage your menopause symptoms.
If you aren’t comfortable with the risks, there are natural remedies that may bring you some relief.