If your interest was piqued by my first post on progesterone cream – a substance that many women find to be a hormone balancing panacea – read on for more about how progesterone cream may or may not be for you.
That post explained natural, biodentical progesterone cream is, and why it can relieve crazy-making symptoms as estrogen levels begin to shift, but why do medical experts recommend applying this hormone topically? Why can’t we take it with the rest of our supplements by swallowing it as a pill?
Well, it turns out that progesterone is a fat soluble compound so is ineffective it you take it orally. Your liver will just slough it right out. When researchers first experimented with how progesterone might balance out whack-o hormones in a woman’s body, they dissolved it in vegetable oil and administered it as a shot. While that seemed to be a workaround, and women did assimilate the hormone that way, it wasn’t much fun because the shots could be irritating and painful.
So – Bravo to whoever got the brilliant idea of dissolving progesterone into a cream that could be easily applied to the skin. I recently heard a doctor refer to this hormone as a natural valium – I think we definitely want enough of it in our bodies!
My Personal Experiment With Progesterone
I’ll be honest here: my decision was at least 50 percent based on vanity. Sure I’m having menopausal symptoms, but thanks to my daily intake of maca, the hot flashes and night sweats are few and far between (This might also be due my recent commitments to listen to my own inner calling, create clear boundaries, and/or a significant reduction in red wine intake – but all of those are stories for another day.)
Still, I’m not exactly sailing through the menopausal transition. My periods can no longer be counted on to arrive with any semblance of regularity – and when they do show up they are often accompanied by heavy cramping and other weirder discomforts. I experience some moodiness and insomnia. Oh yeah, and then there’s the sex drive (or perhaps more accurately: what’s a sex drive?)
Overall though, my physical discomfort from menopause is so far fairly mild.
My mental discomfort with the proliferation of wrinkles and overall dryness in my body is not so bearable. I’m not really liking this physical manifestation of my estrogen levels dropping. More wrinkles, flabbier skin tone, less lubrication, an overall feeling of dry, dry, dry.
I’ve spoken to women who go the synthetic hormone route solely for this reason, and although I am not looking for the fountain of eternal youth I don’t mind prolonging some of its moisture for a few more years.
So I figured I’d pick up a tube of Progest cream and find out what all those women were talking about.
I noticed a significant change within a week. At first I wasn’t sure I liked it. My period arrived two weeks after I began using the cream and I felt sure it had been stimulated by that. The accompanying symptoms were quite similar to the days before perimenopause kicked in.
I kind of liked this feeling of rolling back the clock. I’ve always enjoyed the cyclical nature of the monthly visit from ‘my little friend,’ and how it helped me feel aligned with nature and the moon. When the friend became fickle and I never knew when she was going to come calling, I felt a bit bereft.
Yet I know this particular friend will be passing out of my life soon, progesterone cream notwithstanding.
I’m not sure if supplementing with progesterone is stimulating those last few eggs to do their thing so I can get on with the rest of menopause, but since I started using the cream I’ve been back on more regular menstrual cycle.
The cream also seemed to plump out my breasts and while I didn’t exactly feel like I’d gained any weight or fat, I noticed a distinct difference in the substance of my body flesh. I no longer felt like all the fluid was draining away.
I’m only a few months in, but I think I’m sticking with this stuff for now.
My biggest challenge during the first month or so (and still) was remembering to use it regularly. Especially since you need to take a break for seven days out of the month. Just when you get used to applying it morning and night you have to stop and then begin the habit anew.
I’ve tried several techniques to remember. Phone or calendar reminders are good, but the best trick for me so far is to set the tube where I’ll see it in the morning as I get ready – and then put it on my nightstand so I’ll see it as I get ready for bed.
You’ll figure out what works for you if you decide to do your own progesterone experiment.
An Midlife Ally From PMS To Menopause
I sometimes wonder if it might have done me some good to check out this cream back in my 30s when all those menopausal women were clamoring for it at Moonrise Herbs. Back then my periods – though still regular – began to give me more and more grief.
Often I’d be plunged into depression during the week leading up to my menses, which would greet me with debilitating cramps and two days of such heavy bleeding I was constantly coming up with new expletives to describe it. They were often so bad that I’d plan parties and other events in avoidance of that dreaded time. I was also plagued by a painful breast cyst that would swell up a week to two weeks before my period.
Using progesterone cream may well have helped since is not only can relieve heavy and painful periods, but it is often prescribed for fibrocystic breasts, and generalized breast swelling and tenderness.
Additionally, like many other women working full time and raising young kids, I struggled with mood swings, fatigue, and weight gain that were probably precipitated by adrenal fatigue and the subsequent imbalance of hormones. Translation: my adrenal glands were just pooped out by my attempts to push, push, push and work through it all while getting an average of 5-6 hours of sleep per night.
A daily dose of progesterone cream might have been helpful during those years (although not as helpful as simply slowing down of course.) According to Dr. John R. Lee, author of What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause, depleted adrenals often lead to unstable blood sugar (which exacerbates all of those symptoms mentioned above.)
And guess what hormone helps to stabilize blood sugar as well as mood? Ten points if you guessed the one that starts with a P!
If you’re at that phase of life right now, and are battling exaggerated PMS symptoms as well as plain old exhaustion, you might want to check in with your medical practitioner and consider using progesterone cream.
Another benefit, perhaps more welcomed by older women, is progesterone cream’s ability to stimulate moisture production in the body. Many women use it to relieve the vaginal dryness that plagues the menopausal years, and even to juice up overall skin dryness. (Bye bye prune face!)
Various respected medical doctors, including Dr. Christiane Northrup (of The Wisdom of Menopause fame), recommend using the cream to relieve the intensity of hot flashes and night sweats. Whatever the phase of menopause, the use of bioidentical, topical progesterone cream has helped many women keep their sweaters on.
Progesterone is Sexy
But it can also help to get the sweater off! Although this hormone is well-loved for being responsible for feelings of relaxation and contentment, the benefit that lots of midlife women find most appealing is its ability to re-invigorate a flagging libido.
Progesterone has been shown to restore sex drive for many perimenopausal and menopausal women, often more effectively than HRT. Dr. Lee notes in his book that the confluence of symptoms that accompanied his patients’ lack of interest in sex led him to conclude that loss of sex drive correlates with progesterone deficiency, not estrogen deficiency.
However, correct dosage is key. Dr. Lee says that the amount of progesterone should never exceed the amount the body would normally produce (called a physiologic dose). He recommends 20-30 milligrams per day administered topically through a progesterone cream. This will simulate normal progesterone production.
According to Dr. Lee, this dosage ‘secret’ is why progesterone therapy sometimes seems to reduce sex drive – which it does in higher doses.
Although over-the-counter progesterone cream can’t be a panacea for every woman, it’s can be an excellent solution to restore some balance to hormones gone awry.
If you are dealing with severe symptoms though, your best bet is to get your hormones checked by a qualified medical practitioner or doctor. There can be many factors at work here, and the good news is that it’s possible to get a prescription for a natural, bioidentical hormone formulation that is specially compounded to fill in just where it’s needed in your own body.
However, progesterone cream is an effective and convenient intermediary step, and one worth trying out – certainly if you’ve been troubled by any of the symptoms discussed above.
Your turn! Share your stories or concerns about progesterone cream with our Holistic Hot Sauce Circle. And let us know if you’re using another remedy that’s giving you some relief from the wild roller coaster ride of the midlife hormone dance! Use the comment section below or post your thoughts over on Facebook.
And, if you haven’t already, be sure to check out Part One of this article for important background info about progesterone.