4 Tips to Naturally Boost Progesterone

hormones Feb 06, 2022

Progesterone is a key fertility and pregnancy hormone that primes the uterus for a successful pregnancy. In today’s episode, you discover why progesterone is so important, telltale signs and symptoms the body presents when progesterone is low and 4 holistic health tips on how to naturally boost progesterone. 

If you’re looking for 1:1 support and a personalized program to help prepare your unique body for pregnancy, Nora is taking on four 1:1 clients in her 3-month Master Your Cycle To Get Pregnant Program this month.

Apply for the program here

 

Transcript

You are listening to the Ultimate Pregnancy Prep Podcast, episode #4.

 

Do you know how long your luteal phase is? If you’ve struggled with miscarriages and getting pregnant naturally, looking at your luteal phase and progesterone levels could be the reason you’re seeing a negative test month after month or struggling with recurring miscarriages. 

 

Hello my friends

 

Today’s episode hits close to home. This is something that I struggled with in my mid thirties and it completely derailed my life in the luteal phase of each month of my cycle.  Low progesterone!  I’m going to dive into this key fertility and pregnancy hormone then share 4 key tips on how to naturally boost progesterone with nutrition and lifestyle.

 

So what is progesterone and what does it do? 

 

Progesterone is a primary female ovarian sex hormone and is known for its Keep Calm and Carry On properties because of its ability to sooth our nervous system during our PMS days. 

 

In a healthy cycle, you produce estrogen before ovulation in your follicular phase and progesterone after ovulation in your luteal phase. 

 

Progesterone is KEY for pregnancy because it prepares the uterus for implantation by signaling the endometrium (mucous membrane inside the uterus), to start thickening. If ovulation happens, progesterone continues to provide the uterine lining with what it needs to make a safe and suitable environment for a developing embryo. 

 

Where does progesterone come from?

 

Upon ovulation, an egg is released from your ovary. This egg’s follicle remains inside the ovary and will transform into something called a corpus luteum which is a 2-5cm transient hormone gland produced during the second half of your menstrual cycle. This corpus luteum starts pumping out progesterone. 

 

If you were to get pregnant, the progesterone produced by the corpus luteum would support the embryo for the first 3 months before the placenta takes over. If there is no pregnancy, the corpus luteum breaks down and turns into scar tissue. 

 

I often see clients with symptoms of low progesterone, and this alone will make it challenging to get pregnant, along with carrying a baby to term.  Low progesterone can happen naturally, especially if you suffer from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), hypothyroidism, are chronically stressed and are excessively overweight. 

 

When a woman isn’t pregnant, progesterone regulates her menstrual cycle by preparing the uterine lining that protects an implanted egg after conception. 

 

When a woman is pregnant, progesterone becomes even more important because it protects the embryo and helps the placenta to function normally.

 

AND, after the baby is born, progesterone helps stimulate breast tissue growth in preparation for breastfeeding.

 

So you can see why it's so important to have adequate levels of progesterone. 

 

If you do not suffer from PCOS, hypothyroidism or have a high BMI, there are a variety of other symptoms that can manifest as a result of low progesterone. 

 

Often clients come to me showing signs of progesterone deficiency but would never know it because it shows up in a wide variety of ways.  The following are additional signs of low progesterone. 

  •  any irregular appetite changes
  • depression
  • mood swings
  • irritability
  • weight change
  • fatigue
  • low sex drive
  • painful intercourse
  • insomnia
  • and of course PMS 

 

Unfortunately PMS has been normalized in our society and women are expected to just deal with it.  However, women with moderate to severe PMS typically experience hormonal imbalances, particularly in the luteal phase and this calls for further investigation, especially if you are trying to get pregnant.

 

Research shows that women with significant PMS symptoms often experience a sharp decline in progesterone during the three to five days leading up to their periods and an overall imbalance of estrogen and progesterone.

 

Estrogen and progesterone work together like dance partners. When one is out of synch, the dance is disrupted. For example if progesterone levels are low, there isnt enough available to counter the effects of estrogen and symptoms such as estrogen dominance appear. This can manifest as heavy periods, sore breasts or migraines. 

 

As you can see, nothing happens in a vacuum, everything is connected in the body which is why it’s so important to take a holistic approach to preparing your body for pregnancy. 

 

So how do you know if you have low progesterone outside of just observing your uncomfortable symptoms? 

 

The first option is to start charting your menstrual cycle using 2 key fertile signs including taking your basal body temperature every morning and learning how to chart your cervical mucus. When charting, we look out for signs of low progesterone by observing any premenstrual spotting, a luteal phase of less than 10 days with low temps and increased mucus production the week before your period. When you chart your cycle, you can quickly recognize your symptoms as your body’s way of getting your attention. 

 

Outside of charting you can get your progesterone tested by drawing your blood. The most ideal day to test your progesterone is NOT on day 21 of your cycle, which is what traditional doctors or standard google searches will pull up.

 

A woman’s cycle changes every single month by responding to her lifestyle and environment. It is a myth that women ovulate on day 14 of every cycle, so if you’re tracking your ovulation with an algorithm on an app, just know this is not entirely accurate. The ideal time to test progesterone is on peak + 7 days. What does that mean? You want to test 7 days after you ovulate.  Once you can 100% confirm ovulation, count 7 days and then get your blood test for progesterone. You are then looking for an ideal number of 60nmol/L on your peak + 7 test day.

 

So now that you understand a bit more about the role of progesterone and how low levels can manifest in your daily life, I’m going to share 4 key tips on how to boost it naturally.

 

Tip #1 - Don’t skip breakfast. 

You cannot maintain optimal progesterone production in the luteal phase if you don’t eat enough. Prioritize breakfast each day and make sure to eat within 30-60 minutes of waking. Stop skipping breakfast and/or intermittent fasting as you prepare your body for pregnancy, it’s time to start balancing your hormones by eating as soon as you wake up to help level out your blood sugar and support hormone production.

 

In episode #2 I shared how to eat for your menstrual cycle, and I shared some great breakfast options in the luteal phase.  You want to ensure your breakfast contains a balance of sufficient protein, fat, and carbohydrates, not just a big bowl of oatmeal or muffin.

 

#2 - Eat enough protein

In my practice I see this with most of my clients who prepare for pregnancy. They are not getting adequate protein throughout their day. It may sound simple, but it goes a long way and makes a huge difference in your overall energy levels, mood and quality of sleep.

 

An adult woman requires a minimum of 80–125 grams of protein daily and once you get pregnant, this number goes up. 

 

Think about getting protein in every meal and snack to make sure you are balancing your macronutrients and leveling out your blood sugar. 

 

If you are physically active, aim for around 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. 

 

Do you know how much protein you eat daily? A great tool is to track your daily protein for about 3-4 consecutive days. Download the Cronometer App and track your meals to get your total daily amount. You might be surprised on what you see. 

 

If you are someone who exercises regularly, ensure you consume additional protein and overall calories on exercise days.   If you are physically active, you need to eat more food — especially on the days that you exercise. 

 

Women commonly underestimate the amount of food that is necessary to sustain an active lifestyle. 

 

On exercise days aim for a minimum of 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. If you lift weights or engage in high- intensity workouts it’s time to consider yourself an athlete and ensure you are fueling your body in the best possible way..

 

#3-  Eliminate coffee and other caffeinated beverages: 

 

This can be a bit of a challenging one, especially if you’ve been a coffee drinker for most of your life. But I promise it will go a long way and you might even be pleasantly surprised on how good you feel once you get past the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

 

If coffee, black tea, green tea, or any caffeinated energy drink is your daily “breakfast” it’s time to change it up. Coffee and other caffeinated beverages are appetite suppressants, so drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages in the morning will prevent you from eating a full breakfast and eating enough throughout your day. This will make it challenging to adhere to the first 2 tips I just shared. 

 

Caffeine can also become a crutch and cause adrenal issues long term. 

 

If you can’t get up and function normally in the mornings without coffee, consider that as a big red flag. If your goal is to get pregnant then it’s to re-evaluate your daily cup of joe. If you’re looking to switch to decaf, choose swiss water processed decaf, but please keep in mind that decaf can still have about 25-45mg of caffeine per serving. 

 

#4 -Get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night and sleep in the dark.  

Sleep is absolutely necessary yet so elusive. So many of us struggle with getting good quality and adequate amounts of sleep every night. Disrupted sleep is a sign in itself that something is off in the body, potentially a hormone imbalance. 

 

One of my debilitating symptoms when I suffered from terrible PMS was waking up in the middle of the night (usually around 2-3am) with a racing heart and racing mind. Its like i was jolted awake and couldn’t stop my mind from going through my endless to do list which would leave me feeling anxious and helpless.  After many months with working my own health coach, I was able to optimize my hormones and improve your progesterone levels and now enjoy a solid 7-8 hours of sleep every night. 

 

Hormone production is incredibly sensitive to light. If your room isn’t dark, you won’t produce optimal melatonin and your progesterone production will suffer as a result.

 

Many women find that sleeping in the dark (pitch black so you can’t see your hand in front of your face) helps to lengthen their luteal phase and reduce PMS symptoms.

 

Take a second to think about your nightly routine. What does your current sleep hygiene and nighttime activities look like?  

 

Treat yourself like a growing child and prioritize a healthy evening routine to support your circadian rhythm to help boost your progesterone. Reducing your light exposure (meaning screen time) 2–3 hours before bedtime is ideal and aim for an absolute minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night.

 

You can also boost progesterone production with smart supplementation but it’s important to know your specific dose to support your unique body. 

 

If you’re looking for some extra support as you prepare your body for pregnancy, I have opened up my calendar this month to take on 4 new 1:1 clients in the Master Your Cycle TO Get Pregnant Program. 

 

This is a 3-month private coaching program for women looking to naturally optimize their overall health and fertility through cycle charting, nutrition and holistic self care practices. 

 

Apply for the program today, the link is in the show notes. 

 

Don’t forget to follow or subscribe to the show to get access to weekly new episodes. 

 

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