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Natural Progesterone: pros and cons?

2891 Views 9 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  staceyshoe
I'm experiencing my 2nd miscarriage in the past 3 months. I'm wondering if I need progesterone. My m/w mentioned it but didn't go into details. Can anyone here tell me the pros and cons of using the natural progesterone cream (the kind you find in the health food store, with yam and soy in it)? TIA
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First of all, I'm sorry to hear of your losses.

I had three miscarriages before my kids and I'm working on a book on miscarriages right now so have researched this a little bit. The biggest "con" of using over the counter progesterone creams is that they are not tested for absorption rates. Dosing can be a challenge. You would not want to be taking too much progesterone any more than you would want to be taking too little.

The "pro" is that it can be hard to find a doctor willing to test your progesterone level and prescribe the supplements, so over the counter creams have the benefit of being easy to obtain on your own.

Much of the medical profession believes that progesterone supplements have no benefit in preventing miscarriages, which is what a recent Cochrane Review found, but it also found that progesterone might have value for women who have had recurrent miscarriages and that more trials were needed. ( Some people think that the supplements have not been adequately tested for safety, which may be a concern

If you have a medical practitioner willing to give you a prescription for the supplements and then check your levels to make sure it's in the right range, I'd go that route over the creams if you can. (I took progesterone with both pregnancies and I do believe it played a role in getting me to stop miscarrying.) And if you do go with the over the counter creams, obviously be sure to get it from a reputable source that guarantees that the product isn't going to be contaminated with pollutants, etc.

Good luck.
I know it's awful enough to go through once much less multiple times.
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Thank you Krissi. Do you know why it might be unsafe (what damage could it do, etc.)?

I noticed my health food store has a few brands of natural progesterone cream. I'd feel better about going with something natural over a prescription drug. But the dosing confusion scares me...
I have to emphasize I am not an expert by any means; I've just read a lot of articles about this. I guess the biggest thing is you have to keep in mind that your body has a delicate balance as far as hormones. They haven't really studied what happens if you get too much progesterone. That's part of why so many doctors get antsy about prescribing progesterone supplements before more research is done. It doesn't *seem* to be risky to supplement progesterone but if you've heard anything about the DES that is also a hormone supplement that was once thought to be safe to supplement in pregnancy but then ended up causing problems. When I was on the supplements the doctor ran several blood tests to adjust the dosage in order to keep it from getting too high or too low.

That said I'm fairly convinced by the research I've read and doctors I've interviewed that supplementing progesterone is probably safe. Personally, my biggest concern with using over the counter cream would actually be that the dose would be too small rather than too large. Because again, you don't have a way of knowing how much your body will absorb because the manufacturers are not required to test those products that way and you will not really have any physical signs to tell you whether you have too much or too little. I was tested as having low progesterone in one of my miscarriages and early along in the pregnancy with DD so it was always a key area of paranoia for me. I had to take 400 mg a day in order to get the level up where it should be. Then when I got pg with DS unexpectedly I actually did run out right away to a store and buy OTC progesterone cream for until I could track down a doctor to prescribe it.

I totally understand being skeptical of prescription drugs. I try to avoid doctors and any prescription drugs like the plague these days. But this is one area where I'd make an exception unless you find an OTC brand that has tested for absorption and have a practitioner that can recommend a dosage. Most prescription progesterone supplements used these days are actually natural and supposedly have the exact same composition as the progesterone produced by your body (I wouldn't use synthetic hormones either). What I used was prometrium, which is the oral form of micronized natural progesterone that is supposed to be tested for ability to be absorbed by the body. I've also heard of progesterone suppositories being compounded by compounding pharmacies using some kind of plant matter, and there are also vaginal gels that are supposed to be pretty effective.

...but if you decide to go with the cream, this is an article that contains some dosage recommendations:

Hope this helps.
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Thanks for the info Krissi. I appreciate it.
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Originally Posted by mother_sunshine
I'm experiencing my 2nd miscarriage in the past 3 months. I'm wondering if I need progesterone. My m/w mentioned it but didn't go into details. Can anyone here tell me the pros and cons of using the natural progesterone cream (the kind you find in the health food store, with yam and soy in it)? TIA
I had a miscarriage after ds1 was born (and went on to have 2 more kids). With my second child, dd, my midwife had me take a glob of progesterone cream from the health food store and insert it every morning during the first trimester... I had no side effects whatsoever, and dd was all fine, and came out at 41 weeks weighing 9lbs 10oz... with ds2 (babe #3) I didn't use it and all was still fine.

"Miscarriages" (I call them short-term pregnancies) are a natural part of life in my opinion. I will say I waited 6 months before getting preggers after I had one. I felt like I needed that time not only physically, but for my heart/spirit, too.

Blessings and Best Wishes,
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Recent med research has shown that 50% of all m/c are caused by low progesterone so you're looking in the right direction. I think it would be prudent to get your levels tested so you know whether that is the cause in your case or not. My dr had me get my progesterone level checked as soon as I got a pos HPT but I know some women need the hormonal support even sooner.

I agree with pp about OTC creams. Honestly, if it's natural progesterone, I don't see a downside. But if your m/c are caused by low prog levels, I doubt OTC cream will be enough for you. (An example is my SIL who needs 30 TIMES the daily OTC dose to get her levels in the low normal range.) If you would be taking high doses of prog without knowing your levels, it can cause other problems because progesterone is a precursor for other hormones including androgens and cortisol, but hormone at that level is by Rx only and a dr would take a blood test first. The dosage of OTC are so miniscule that I don't think it's possible to overdo them. More than anything, I think they are a waste of $ for the vast majority of women who need prog.

The only 2 options for Rx natural progesterone (as opposed to synthetic progestins which do have neg side effects and are not effective in maintaining preg) are 1-through a compounding pharmacy or 2-Prometrium. Because a pharmaceutical co cannot patent a natural substance and make $, other forms of Rx "progesterone" are chemically different from your body's progesterone. (In the case of Prometrium, they patented the microionization process that allows the hormone to pass through the liver.)

Sorry to be so long winded, but I've been through this as well and have done a ton of research. I hope you find the answers you're looking for.

There is a fantastic website out there called Saving Babies Online that talks all about prog and has a forum where you can ask questions. I don't have the link handy, but you should be able to google "Saving babies online progesterone" or something and find it easily. HTH!

ETA: I found the website for Saving Babies Online:
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I am certainly no expert, but after three years of infertility, I started using Natural Progesterone cream from the health food store. My periods became regular within a month, and I was pregnant within three months!

I would like to start using it again, but I'm still bfing, so I don't know about safety and if and how much passes through my milk.
Fiestabeth, glad that worked for you! If your progesterone levels are low, there shouldn't be a problem with taking natural progesterone--it would just bring your hormone levels up to a normal and healthy level. I've found that compounding pharmacists are extremely knowledgable about hormones and will spend a lot of time answering questions. If you're concerned, it might be worth a phone call to one to get their opinion. HTH!
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