Sleepless & Stressed: The Perimenopausal Symptoms of Progesterone
Progesterone is the chillax hormone. As it changes and lowers, your overall stress tolerance and stress resilience often lowers, too. Meanwhile, midlife is stress central. Many of us stress eat, grab more wine and feel guilty about yelling at the cat. We're waking up at 3 am and noticing our boobs hurt, even if we don't have our period right now.
It's not you—it's your hormones. Specifically, changing progesterone levels.
If only people knew. (And by people we mean women like us, our doctors, therapists, partners, co-workers...)
The mental health aspect of perimenopause is so little recognized and understood. Often women over 40 experience these perimenopausal symptoms without clocking significant changes in their periods, so its hormonal component goes unrecognized. Everyone calls it stress. The doctor puts you on an antidepressant. You pop melatonin. The hormonal aspect goes untreated yet yes, they are perimenopausal symptoms.
Many MDs (and even more therapists) don’t recognize the ways declining progesterone can mess with your sleep and mental well-being. So there may even more confusion as you try to get help.
Am I Just Spotting? Or...
Here today, gone tomorrow. We’ve all had periods like that, making a mockery of our tracker apps and our life plans that rely on predictability. We hear from many women who don't realize (or maybe don't want to realize) that subtle shifts in their cycles are a sign of change. But after 40, your period may start to change subtly before it goes full chaos.
If you’re already familiar with Wile, then you may have a pretty solid idea of what happens during perimenopause - your hormones, typically starting with progesterone, fluctuate and decrease until your periods come to a complete stop. No more sudden gushy feelings, no more digging for a tampon at the bottom of your purse.
But until then, buckle your seatbelt. The early stages of this change can often make you feel like a different person.
If you’re one of the lucky ones, the symptoms of declining progesterone levels will be a mild and temporary inconvenience at best.
Lower Progesterone, Higher Cortisol?
Like we said, midlife is stressful as is. But your body under ongoing stress may actually end up producing even less progesterone. DHEA produces both cortisol—the stress hormone—and progesterone. Overtime, the more cortisol it cranks out means even less of the stress-balancing progesterone it will create. Which means your perimenopausal symptoms and stress tolerance will be taxed even further.
Knowledge is power, so learn about this chillaxing hormone and what its changes could mean for you.
What Does Progesterone Really Do?Progesterone is one of the major hormones considered to be important to women, along with estrogen. Sometimes referred to as the “pregnancy” hormone, progesterone, in particular, is responsible for sexual development and other key parts of the reproductive process as you go through pregnancy or experience puberty.
As a woman, progesterone plays a big role in your bodily functions and health related to pregnancy:
- Decreasing the endometrium build-up associated with getting your period
- Stops ovulation when levels are high
- Supports early pregnancy and sustained fertility
- Helps with milk production and breastfeeding
Symptoms Of Low ProgesteroneHere are some of the perimenopausal symptoms associated with lower progesterone:
- Sleep issues, especially interrupted sleep
- Irritability or feeling on edge
- Longer, heavier periods
- Spotting between periods
- Weight gain
- Abdominal pain
- Lower sex drive
- Breast tenderness
- More occasional depression or mood swings
- More worry or occasional anxiety
- Low blood sugar
- Lower concentration and blips in memory
Progesterone & Hormone Replacement TherapyYou may be wondering whether adding more hormones will resolve these issues (commonly known as hormone replacement therapy or HRT). This medical treatment is commonly touted as a cure-all for women experiencing menopausal symptoms.
For women that haven’t had a hysterectomy yet (30% of us will by age 60, but that's another topic): a mixture of estrogen and progesterone is recommended. (If you are being recommended estrogen alone, beware! Your body needs progesterone to balance the increased estrogen.)
Progesterone is often offered in oral form and taken at night. Progesterone creams are also available. While many menopause experts recommend bioidentical hormones, the most commonly prescribed oral progesterones are synthetic, in the form of Progestin.
What Can Happen with Progesterone Therapy
We are pro-HRT, really any safe way for women to find stress relief and manage this life stage.
But it’s essential to remember that hormone therapy like taking progesterone is not a cure-all for perimenopausal symptoms. There are also health risks to taking hormones over the long term. Some of the immediate side-effects include:
- General tiredness
- Nausea or abdominal discomfort
- Fluid retention and weight gain
- Breast tenderness
- Breakthrough bleeding
Progesterone & Weight Gain
Now, one of the major questions that come up commonly is will progesterone make me gain weight? The answer is yes, no or maybe. Progesterone in and of itself will not make you gain weight, but depending on where you are in your hormonal cycle you might notice more fullness than usual.
What progesterone can do is boost your appetite during certain times of the month. You’ll need to pay more attention to your hunger levels and cravings if you want to get to the bottom of rising scale digits.
This type of treatment could be additionally risky for certain individuals to take on. If you’re over sixty, for example, or you’ve been menopausal for close to a decade, then getting on any HRT may not be an option.
What Are Some Alternatives To Progesterone Therapy?If you’re worried about the long-term health impact of this type of treatment, you’re not alone. Many women have found themselves in the same position, wondering if there’s something else they can do that will still be effective at treating their symptoms.
HRT is not your only option when it comes to maintaining your menopausal health. In fact, it’s one of the very reasons why we decided to create Wile.
Emotional and hormonal wellness for women over 40 has always felt like an unreachable goal. Like we’re doomed to suffer the effects of aging and being punished for having them too. This includes pumping hormones into our bodies just so that we can give society the benefit of not having to deal with our menopausal reminders and moods.
That’s why we opted for naturopath-designed supplements made by the one thing we can trust - Nature. Low progesterone levels shouldn’t be something you need to worry about if you’re being proactive about them. Just because it’s normal doesn’t mean that you have to deal with it!
That’s why Wile uses clinically backed adaptogens and nervines to provide women's stress relief in addition to overall hormonal health.
Our naturopath-formulated supplements for women over 40 are made to give you natural relief from perimenopausal symptoms and the other major life stresses. That includes worrying chemicals that could do more harm than good over the course of your life.
Why Two Supplements?
Many companies sell a single ingredient or do a “package by numbers” that simply add a bit of this ingredient or that one to put a claim on a bottle. Wile looks at women and formulations holistically, because that’s how our bodies and nature really work. Made up of nutritive herbs, phytoestrogens, adaptogens, and more, our Wile formulations are safe to use together and long-term with no risk to your health.
Start paying attention to your hormonal wellness now, whether you need it yet or not. Our Perimenopause Support blend uses adaptogens and more to support better:
- Stress tolerance & resilience
- Pre-menopause and perimenopause transitions without synthetic hormones or side effects
And if stress and focus are the biggest issue, you can take it with our Women's Stress supplement (or choose Women's Stress on its own.) Using naturopath-proven herbs and adaptogens, it targets both situational and hormonal stress—because we've got both. You won't miss that progesterone as much after all.
All you need to do is take it twice daily with food and combine it with any other Wile supplements to personalize your regimen.
You already have a lot to stress about - there's no reason managing this needs to be a part of it. Trust Wile to support you every step of the way, one day at a time.
Photo credit: Muspi Merol Unsplash
This article is intended for informational purposes and is not intended to replace a one-on-one medical consultation with a professional. Wile, Inc researches and shares information and advice from our own research and advisors. We encourage every woman to research, ask questions and speak to a trusted health care professional to make her own best decisions.