The Results Are In…
I received the results from my hormone saliva panel that I did a couple of weeks ago and the results were as expected — low progesterone. While I was aware that this was likely the case, given the many symptoms I have of low progesterone and the miscarriage a couple of months ago, there is something harder (and more frustrating) about seeing this reality in black and white.
A question swirled in my mind — What causes low progesterone? How did I get here?
One key component in lowered progesterone is stress. The hormone DHEA is a precursor to progesterone. DHEA is produced by the adrenals and can fall short when the adrenal glands are fatigued. (Check out a previous post I did about the relation between stress and hormones.)
Stress has certainly been a major player in my life for a long, long time, though I do feel like I’ve reached a more balanced place in the ebb and flow of life, where I recognize when I am stressed and take measures to focus on de-stressing 🙂
Regardless, I think the next test for me is to see where my DHEA and cortisol levels are to see if my adrenals are playing into my progesterone woes.
In answering the question — What causes low progesterone? I think the greater factor lies in the truth that I took birth control for ten years — or about a third of my life.
How Does Birth Control Work?
In all the years that I popped those little white birth control pills not once did I stop to think about the impacts they were having on my body. I just knew that they kept me from getting pregnant (somehow) and that they kept the pain from my endometriosis at bay. So I continued to take them, with little consideration of the long term effects.
Unfortunately I am now faced with those side effects and have become to wonder if this so called “birth control” has become a permanent thing. Allow me to explain this concern further…
Birth control works to prevent pregnancy by stopping the body from ovulating. When there is no ovulation, then there cannot be a pregnancy. When the body does not ovulate this also means that no progesterone is produced by the body. This is because without ovulation there is no development of a corpus luteum, which puts out progesterone.
Birth control essentially turns off the body’s own hormone production and replaces it with synthetic hormones. I started taking the pill when I was 17 years old — a time of life where my body was still maturing hormonally. Then for ten years I essentially turned off my body’s natural hormonal rhythm.
In short, this means that my body was not producing progesterone for a decade amidst the most fertile period of my life. As I move forward into my thirties and a lowered fertility time, I wonder now if my body even knows how to produce progesterone?
How to Naturally Boost Progesterone
This leads to the next question swirling in my mind — How to naturally boost my progesterone levels?
There are also ways to help improve progesterone production with diet. Progesterone is synthesized from pregnenolone, which is derived from cholesterol, so it is important to make sure to have adequate consumption of dietary cholesterol. Eggs have a high amount of cholesterol and (if no allergies are present) can be a great way to naturally boost progesterone.
Protein also plays a key role, as hormones need protein for production.
B vitamins are also a key component. I know increasing B vitamins can help increase the length of the luteal phase in those with luteal phase deficiency. A normal luteal phase is 12-14 days. Anything less signals a luteal phase defect. Mine is usually only 9-10 days — an apparent first sign that my progesterone was likely low.
The generally recommended way to increase progesterone is with natural progesterone cream. This is a method that I’ve been a little leery about, but I’ve reached a point where I’m considering giving it a shot.
From the experiences of other women natural progesterone cream can be good or bad and I think a lot of this depends on getting the dosage correct in line with your body’s unique makeup. For this, I think I think I’m going to need to seek outside help 🙂
On the Positive Side?
In retrospect, the decision to take birth control for such a long period of time was not a good choice and if I could go back, I’d never, ever put those little white pills into my body. I was so ignorant about how the pill worked and about the truly damaging long term effects.
But I know that I can’t go back, and I’m working on letting go of this regret that often times nags at my thoughts. My hopes are that by sharing this information that it will make you think twice about taking birth control.
I know that this decision can be tricky as birth control is presented as a method of treating endometriosis. When I stopped taking it my gynecologist continued to push it on me every single time I saw her. It seems to be the accepted choice and many, like me, do not question its impacts.
The positive in all of this is that I am aware now, and am working to take steps to correct this decision in hopes that my body does eventually find its natural rhythm again. But this requires patience and a focus on calming the tick tock in my brain that tells me that my days of fertility are growing short….
What about you — Have you experienced side effects from taking birth control long term? Have you tried natural progesterone cream or any other natural alternative to boost progesterone?
I’d love to hear from you.
Until next time….
Despite arguments from my doctor to the contrary, I too have been wondering if my long-term use of BC for endo pain has impacted my ability to conceive. Thank you so much for posting this — it helps me to know that I’m still not alone on this journey! Namaste!
Thank you for commenting — helps remind me too that I am not alone. Sending you love and baby dust 🙂
I don’t have Endo, but after coming off the pill after 12 years I thought conceiving would be easy. three months later and I haven’t ovulated or had a period- and I’ve had a blood test which shows low progesterone. I have to say I feel ripped off by the industry. I took birth control from 16 to manage acne. Not one of my GPs or my dermatologist discussed the long term impacts on my fertility. This needs to be a bigger conversation when prescribing it!
Hi, love. I’m sorry that you’re struggling. It does take time for your natural hormones to wake up after being on the pill for so long. Here’s some tips to help make the transition off of it: https://peacewithendo.com/2016/10/8-tips-help-get-off-birth-control.html
I agree that there does need to be more discussion about the long term impacts with birth control. It’s so easily handed out for things like acne. I wish you the best on your journey to conceiving. Much Love.