Progesterone is a naturally occurring steroid hormone produced by ovaries during the menstrual cycle. It plays an integral role in regulating your menstrual cycles and maintaining pregnancy.1 Once menopause occurs the body stops producing progesterone altogether, leading to the symptoms of menopause many women are familiar with including hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings.
Progesterone creams are used to offset this lack of progesterone before menopause, during menopause, and post-menopause, but excess progesterone can come with potential side effects. Read on to learn more about progesterone cream and how to avoid the potential side effects of overdose.
What are Natural Progesterone Creams Used For?
Progesterone creams are most often used to relieve symptoms of menopause. Menopause is a normal condition that every woman goes through during which menstruation ends, marking the end of a woman’s ability to have children. Physiologically, menopause is caused by a significant decline in the body’s production of estrogen and progesterone.2 This is also followed by an increase in follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH).3
This sudden hormonal imbalance results in a variety of severe emotional and physical symptoms.
Progesterone cream aims to reduce or relieve some of menopause and perimenopause symptoms. It may help to:
- Reduce hot flashes
- Fight fatigue
- Improve mood
- Improve sleep quality
- Maintain bone health
- Improve skin dryness, thinning, and wrinkling4
When Do Overdoses Occur?
Progesterone overdoses usually occur when you fail to follow the instructions on the product or your doctor’s instructions.
Symptoms of Progesterone Overdose
Continuous usage of progesterone higher than the amount recommend will result in a buildup of progesterone levels in the body. As progesterone levels build up, you may experience a variety of negative side effects:
Excessive progesterone use is associated with an increased risk of venous thromboembolism, or blood clots in the legs, arms, or groin. This risk appears to be even greater for women with preexisting factors for blood clots, including obesity, fractures, or immobility. Thankfully, studies suggest that this risk mainly applies to those taking orally administered progesterone. Transdermal or topical forms of progesterone have shown little to no effect on prothrombotic substances.13 Other potential symptoms of taking too much progesterone include:
- Swelling in the extremities
- Weight gain
- Blurry vision
- Tenderness in the breasts
- Irritation at the application site
- Mood swings
- Upset stomach
- Vomiting and nausea
- Vaginal discharge
- Problems urinating14
Some women also report developing PMS-like symptoms. You may also experience oily skin, sudden acne breakouts, and hirsutism (excessive body hair growth). Most doctors also recommend alternating where you apply the progesterone cream as repeatedly applying the cream to the same area of skin can lead to irritation.4
Many women report less severe side effects when using naturally derived progesterone as opposed to synthetic products. General side effects may occur when starting progesterone and subside over time.15 However, if side effects persist or if you experience serious side effects that disrupt your quality of life, contact your doctor immediately.
How to Avoid Progesterone Cream Side Effects
Take Progesterone Cream Once a Day
Progesterone is generally only recommended to be taken once a day. Taking the cream more than once per day can lead to a buildup of progesterone in the body.
Schedule a Break Period
Progesterone is also meant to be taken on a rotating schedule. Continuous usage without taking a necessary break results in an unhealthy accumulation of progesterone in the body.
Take the recommended dosage of progesterone
In post-menopausal women, the recommended dose is about 200 mg of progesterone taken orally every day for 12 days per 28-day cycle, specifically for endometrial hyperplasia. For amenorrhea, or the absence of menstruation, doctors may recommend as much as 400 mg of progesterone taken orally once a day for 10 days.5
For progesterone creams, doctors will usually recommend a daily dose of about 25 mg to manage hot flashes. Most over-the-counter progesterone cream bottles dispense about 20 mg of progesterone per pump. The cream is then applied to your skin and absorbed into the body. Using 75 mg of progesterone cream is close to an oral dose of 200 mg. The cream can be applied to the neck, arms, inner thighs, lower abdomen, and vaginal area.4
Doses of progesterone can vary depending on your specific health and needs, so consult your doctor to determine how much progesterone you need.
Benefits of Progesterone in Post-Menopausal Women
Progesterone is naturally produced by the body and can have effects far beyond a woman’s reproductive health.
Reduces Fluid Retention
Studies show that progesterone and estradiol, another estrogen steroid hormone, affect fluid retention and regulation by altering total body water and sodium content, as well as the set points for body fluids to maintain homeostasis.6
Inhibits Autoimmune Activity
Some evidence suggests that sex steroid hormones like progesterone can potentially modulate the genetic risk of autoimmune disease in humans. The exact role of progesterone as an immunomodulating agent still requires further study. In pregnancy, progesterone may suppress the disease activity of autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis by inhibiting certain T-helper cells and stimulating anti-inflammatory molecules.7
Progesterone produced by the placenta inhibits lactation during pregnancy by interfering with the binding of prolactin to alveolar cell receptors, which directly prevents the production of breast milk. The rapid decline of placental progesterone following birth triggers lactation.8
Increases Skin Collagen, Hydration, and Thickness
Studies have found that various estrogens, including progesterone, have a significant effect on skin’s physiology, from its very cell structures to hair follicles and sebaceous glands. Certain estrogen replacement therapies, like using progesterone cream, may reduce signs of skin aging.9
One study from 2005 evaluated the effects of 2% progesterone cream on skin health, texture, and function among 40 perimenopausal and post-menopausal women. This double-blind, randomized, vehicle-controlled study used objective methods to measure skin elasticity, skin surface lipids, epidermal hydration, self-assessments, and measures of blood hormone levels (FSH, LH, estrogen, and progesterone). The study occurred over four visits during a 16-week period. While the study found no changes in skin surface lipids or hydration, the results of the study found significant increases in skin elasticity and firmness and reduced wrinkle count and depth in the group of women who used the progesterone cream without any serious side effects.10
Progesterone and other ovarian steroid hormones are known to modulate sexual desire in women. This is why the decreased ovarian hormone levels associated with menopause are also often accompanied by a low sexual desire post-menopause.11
Regulates Inflammatory Response
Some studies suggest that progesterone has a protective effect that may regulate inflammation and oxidative stress. Rat studies have found that progesterone may reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines and supports antioxidant enzyme activities.12
Talk to your doctor before you use progesterone cream. If you think progesterone cream could help you, consider using DrFormulas® Progester-ONE™ Cream, which is an all-natural cream that is formulated to support hormonal balance and help provide relief for symptoms of menopause and perimenopause, including hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings.