PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) isn't the same for every woman.
There are different symptoms that are felt to different degrees. Heck, you can actually have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome without cysts on the ovaries.
But some things are consistent between PCOS sufferers, and one of those things is low progesterone levels.
Let's talk about why progesterone levels are low for women with PCOS, what that means for you, and some ways that you can respond.
Altered/Reduced Ovary Function
Research is still being done into the nature and causes of PCOS because not everything is clear about the disorder. But with as many as 10% of women being impacted, the issue deserves more attention.
What we do know is that women with PCOS are also insulin resistant, and that seems to be where the cycle begins.
With insulin resistance the body has to create more insulin to bring down blood sugar levels. That's a problem because it can lead to diabetes and other diseases, but in the case of PCOS, increased insulin also impacts normal hormone production.Because insulin triggers the production of androgens like testosterone, the ovaries end up making more androgens than they should. And more androgen production means less production of the hormones that would typically be generated there, namely estrogen and progesterone.
Why Aren't Estrogen Levels lowered With PCOS?
Sometimes estrogen levels are lower than normal for women with PCOS. But most of the time our bodies are able to convert excess androgens into the estrogen that has become deficient.
If that sounds weird to you, you're not alone. How can androgens like testosterone become estrogen? Shouldn't they be kind of... the opposite?
Oddly, even though androgens and estrogen have nearly opposite effects on the cells they interact with, they are incredibly similar in structure to one another. This allows our bodies to convert them as needed.
Sadly there's no similar easy fix for progesterone deficiencies, so every woman with PCOS will display lowered progesterone levels.
What Less Progesterone Means
So what's the big deal about low progesterone?
It turns out that progesterone does quite a lot for us, both directly, and as a balance for estrogen.
For starters, progesterone is the most crucial hormone in the regulation of the menstrual cycle. When progesterone levels aren't what they should be, it can lead to a variety of menstrual disorders such as: irregular or unreliable periods, heavy or light bleeding, even a complete absence of menstruation.
Probably the most devastating aspect of menstrual cycle disruption is fertility problems. Women with PCOS are much more likely to have trouble conceiving, and sustaining a pregnancy.
Progesterone also plays a crucial role in balancing estrogen. When the ratio of estrogen to progesterone is off (as it is with PCOS) it becomes harder to lose fat, or maintain a healthy body weight.
The imbalance caused by low progesterone also often results in:
- Skin and hair problems
- And mood changes.
Not all women with PCOS will experience all of these symptoms, but they all have the potential to make life more difficult and challenging when they do occur.
What You Can Do
With PCOS it's smart to start at the beginning: Insulin resistance.
By maintaining a healthy weight, and limiting carbohydrate intake, we can reduce insulin levels. That helps everything down the line. The ovaries will create less androgen hormones in response, and even naturally improve the production of estrogen and progesterone.
For many women this step will make a huge difference, and result in a reduction of symptoms.
But for most women with PCOS, diet and exercise will only yield so much. That's why a good progesterone supplement is crucial. We recommend Progesto-Life, our bio-identical progesterone supplement cream. The progesterone in Progesto-Life is a perfect match to what the body produces naturally, and is absorbed efficiently through the skin.
It is possible to live well with PCOS, and in many cases, it's possible to live symptom-free with proper diet, exercise, and supplementation.