Side Effects of a Progesterone Deficiency

Updated December 15, 2016

Progesterone is a female hormone responsible for many processes in women during puberty, menstruation and pregnancy. Not having enough progesterone can cause side effects that seriously affect a woman's sexual development and the ability to reproduce.


Progesterone is a hormone that is naturally produced by humans, but twice as much by women than by men. Women use it, along with other female hormones like oestrogen, to facilitate reproductive processes. Progesterone is found in the ovaries, the adrenal glands and the pregnancy placenta. It is also stored in certain fat cells. Outside of the human body, progesterone can be harvested from a certain type of yam.

Progesterone Deficiency

Women who have experienced menopause and prepubescent girls have very low levels of progesterone. When women have low levels of progesterone during their childbearing years, it is called a progesterone deficiency. Symptoms include irregular periods, ovarian cysts and frequent miscarriages. If your health-care provider thinks that you have progesterone deficiency, he will ask for a blood sample for analysis. You must not take birth control pills, oestrogen supplements or progesterone supplements for at least a month before the test because these may skew the results. If you do have low levels of this hormone, your doctor may prescribe synthetic progesterone for you.

During Breast Development

A girl's puberty is marked by menstruation and breast development. The breasts begin to develop a couple of years before menstruation, spurred on by oestrogen, prolactin and other hormones. After the first ovulation and menstruation, her body begins to produce progesterone. Then, along with oestrogen and other hormones, progesterone helps to complete the breast development. If progesterone deficiency is present, the girl may not develop any or enough milk ducts. This may also affect the size of the breasts, causing them to appear hollow-like or bulbous around the tips yet narrow near the chest.

During Conception

Infertility or difficulty conceiving are both side effects from progesterone deficiency. Progesterone signals your breasts and uterus to prepare for conception. Your breasts swell with the increase of milk structures. It tells the lining of the uterus to become thicker and the cervix to secrete thicker mucus. This hormone is also thought to lower your immunity during conception to allow your body to accept the fertilised egg. If conception does not occur, your progesterone levels drop, signalling menstruation to begin. When you do not produce enough progesterone to begin with, none of the changes occurs to prepare for fertilisation, making it difficult to complete.

During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, progesterone keeps the uterus thick and stabilises its movement. It continues to stimulate breast tissue to grow in anticipation of milk production. It also strengthens the pelvic walls and promotes the growth of a thick mucus plug over the cervix to prevent infection from passing through. All of these things protect the baby and nourish the baby. If you are not making enough progesterone, miscarriages become more likely. If you do successfully give birth, progesterone deficiency can make nearly impossible to breast feed effectively.

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About the Author

Michaele Curtis began writing professionally in 2001. As a freelance writer for the Centers for Disease Control, Nationwide Insurance and AT&T Interactive, her work has appeared in "Insurance Today," "Mobiles and PDAs" and "Curve Magazine." Curtis holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication from Louisiana State University.