When we talk about hormonal changes during perimenopause and menopause, estrogen gets the most attention. However, estrogen’s “partner,” progesterone, plays an important role. If you are in perimenopause, it likely hasn’t been since puberty that you’ve experienced such a wild hormonal ride!
All About Progesterone
Progesterone, like estrogen, is a steroid hormone the body makes from cholesterol. While estrogen is the “star” of the first half of the cycle, progesterone is the main hormone during the second half.
Estrogen thickens the uterine lining and prepares for ovulation. After ovulation, progesterone rises, balancing estrogen. Progesterone helps you to feel calm, warm, less inflamed and get better sleep. Like estrogen, progesterone is also important for protecting your bones, heart and brain.
But what happens to progesterone after the reproductive years?
As we get older, ovulation slows down. In perimenopause, we begin to experience irregular cycles, including some cycles where we don’t ovulate. If we don’t ovulate, we don’t make progesterone. Without progesterone to balance out estrogen, we experience estrogen dominance and the associated symptoms like heavy bleeding, mood swings and insomnia.
After the final menstrual period (menopause), estrogen levels become less variable than they were in perimenopause and settle in at a new lower level. Without ovulation, progesterone production from the ovaries effectively ceases, although a very tiny amount is made by the adrenal glands.
The loss of these sex hormones in menopause causes the body – including the brain and immune system – to recalibrate to the new hormonal landscape--- roughly the same levels as we had before puberty.
Natural Ways to Support the Hormonal Changes of Perimenopause & Menopause
The body is adaptable and it’s possible to have a peaceful transition to menopause. Here are some lifestyle tools to help:
Try some of these lifestyle suggestions to help you feel grounded and support your body’s recalibration as you transition to menopause with grace and ease.
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