Progesterone: characteristics and functions

Progesterone is a female sex hormone that falls under the steroid group

Progesterone: characteristics and functions

Progesterone is a female sex hormone that falls under the steroid group . It is secreted by the ovaries after ovulation and performs numerous functions. Together with estrogen, it is one of the most important hormones among those that regulate the menstrual cycle and reproductive life of women.



It is perhaps a little known hormone, but with a decisive action on female life. Low or high levels of progesterone can cause health problems, decreased desire or complications pregnancy . Let's see what are its main features and functions.



Main characteristics of progesterone

It was discovered in 1933 by a doctor from the University of Rochester. Progesterone is produced in three different sites:

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  • Ovaries (especially in the corpus luteum after ovulation);
  • Adrenal glands (where the adrenalin );
  • Placenta during pregnancy.

Once synthesized, it is stored in adipose tissue or body fat.

'Along with estrogen, progesterone is one of the most important hormones in regulating the menstrual cycle and female reproductive life.'



Definition of the word progesterone

After ovulation (release of the egg), the ovaries begin to produce progesterone through the corpus luteum (the remnants of ovulation). In this phase it reaches its maximum peak and remains at high levels until pregnancy or menstruation.

If pregnancy occurs, this important hormone has the function of preparing the uterus and ensuring optimal conditions for gestation. After about ten weeks from fertilization, the placenta will secrete progesterone in adequate quantities for the normal development of the fetus.

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In case of failure pregnancy , progesterone levels drop. The endometrium (uterine tissue) then begins to flake off and bleeding occurs. It is therefore a sex hormone that sees the participation of multiple organs and with concentrations in the blood that vary during the menstrual cycle.

Main functions of progesterone

Regulates the menstrual cycle

Progesterone is linked to menstrual bleeding.

  • If the egg is not fertilized, the levels of this hormone decrease: the breakdown of the endometrium and menstruation begins.
  • If the levels are high, bleeding doesn't happen.
  • On the other hand, if progesterone production is insufficient or low during pregnancy, bleeding can occur as part of the uterine tissue begins to flake off.

Prepare the uterus for pregnancy

Once ovulation has taken place, progesterone has the task of preparing the uterus to receive the embryo and ensure the correct course of pregnancy. In fact, it is the hormones that make the uterine mucosa stable and maintain a thickness suitable for gestation . On the other hand, after fertilization, the placenta will produce the progesterone necessary to ensure optimal conditions for the fetus.

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Prepare the mammary glands for breastfeeding

During pregnancy, the mammary glands prepare to produce and expel the breast milk . The main role of progesterone is to increase the size of the breast.

In other words, a high concentration of this hormone prepares the breasts to produce and release milk . For this, however, it is necessary to wait until the baby is born, when an increase in prolactin and oxytocin lowers progesterone levels and allows the maternal fluid to escape.

Mother and newborn

Bone health

While estrogen is involved in maintaining the health of already formed bones, progesterone contributes to the formation of new bone. To perform this task, he must interact with osteoblasti (the cells that generate new bone tissue); it stimulates its activity and helps repair any damage to the bones.

Low levels of progesterone and consequences on the central nervous system

Optimal levels of this steroid promote a correct balance in terms of mood and sexual desire. For example, it has been found that a low concentration can produce mood changes, anxiety, nervousness, insomnia and decreased libido . It has also been found to have protective effects on the brain and prevent neurons from degenerating.

When ovulation occurs, progesterone has the task of preparing the uterus to receive the embryo and ensure the completion of the pregnancy.

It is therefore a hormone that is primarily responsible for the baby's gestation. At the same time, it has a very important action on sexual desire and mood. In any case, its deficiency can be countered with drugs, after evaluation and medical prescription.