9 Top bioidentical progesterone cream facts you should know

I think you would agree with me when I tell you how difficult it is to find truthful and actionable information on bioidentical progesterone cream.

The problem is that for years education on female hormones was limited at best. This compounded the fact that the pharmaceutical companies have been pushing their own agendas, and confusing not only doctors but patients about bioidentical progesterone and how using natural progesterone has less, if any, side effects than synthetic progesterone.  In our clinic we have helped hundreds of women work through hormonal balance issues, perimenopause, menopause, recovery from the removal of the thyroid, and hysterectomies, etc.  We have helped turn once desperate and frustrated women into happy, loving, productive, sexually active, stress-free women and more.

In this post I am going to teach you all about bioidentical progesterone, how to use it, and what to avoid.

#1: What is Bioidentical Progesterone?

Bioidentical progesterone is the use of plant based hormones which are identical on a molecular level to human hormones.  Therefore, bioidentical progesterone is the use of natural progesterone that closely matches human progesterone.

The term “bioidentical” means the hormones in the product are chemically identical to those your body produces. In fact, the hormones in bioidentical medications may not be any different from those in traditional hormone therapy.

Several hormone therapy products approved by the FDA and prescribed by health care providers contain bioidentical hormones.

“Natural” means the hormones in the product come from plant or animal sources; they’re not synthesized in a lab. However, many of these products still need to be commercially processed to become bioidentical.

Traditional hormone therapies don’t necessarily exclude natural hormones. Some FDA-approved products — such as Estrace, Climara and Vivelle-Dot, which contain estrogens, and Prometrium, a natural progesterone — also are derived from plants.

John R. Lee, MD, pioneer in women’s health and tailored hormonal balance programs, suggests transdermal application of bioidentical progesterone cream is the best. This way is known to mimic the body’s natural release of progesterone, and is more effective at influencing progesterone levels than oral progesterone.

Board-certified OB/GYN physician, Dr. Christiane Northrup confirms that “The most physiologic way to take hormones is through the skin—either with a cream or a vaginal gel. That way the hormone goes right into the bloodstream without having to be metabolized by the liver.”

#2: How and when you should apply bioidentical progesterone cream.

If you are not applying bioidentical progesterone correctly it may less effective or not work at all. For instance, the best areas for application are places in which capillaries are dense and close to the surface of the skin, such as: upper chest, inner arms, hands, feet and breasts.

In our medical clinic and in studies we have found that many women use bioidentical progesterone cream incorrectly, or are worried about how they are using it.

Balancing Hormones Naturally | What to Expect from Progesterone | Dr. Patti Beckstead | Video

More importantly, the more you know about bioidentical progesterone cream, the better able you will be able to support your progesterone levels correctly.

Avoid putting bioidentical progesterone cream on the fattiest areas of the body, as this may inhibit proper absorption.

For instance, fat can store progesterone, rather than allow it to move into the bloodstream, circulate, and be utilized by the body. In addition, rotate where you apply the cream each time you use it to avoid saturation.

A good rotation combination in repeating order could be left bicep, right bicep, back of left knee, back or right knee and repeat consecutively.
Reaching optimal hormone levels takes time and you may have to endure a period of adjustment before you achieve that perfect balance.

First, hormone levels must be tested and routinely assessed, along with your symptoms, to find the right dose for your prescription(s).

During this time, hormonal imbalances may continue to occur or temporarily worsen. This is what makes ongoing communication with your practitioner paramount as well as routine attendance to follow-up appointments.

Your practitioner will use these check-ins to make effective adjustments to your prescriptions and treatment plan in an effort to reach the ultimate goal: optimal hormone balance.

The adverse effects that may occur depend upon which hormone levels remain unbalanced.

If you don’t use the right amount of biological hormones for your individual symptoms you could experience:

  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Increased acne
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Breast tenderness
  • Itching at the application site

It may be frustrating to continue to see the same kinds of symptoms for which you’re seeking treatment, but as your testing continues and your hormone levels are adjusted, you will feel much better.

Once your hormones have reached an ideal balance, you are likely to see a drastic reduction or complete absence of these adverse effects. The adjustment period may take several visits, but it is well worth the results.

Estrogen Uses

Natural estrogens are used for replacement therapy in perimenopausal, menopausal, and post-menopausal women for the treatment of symptoms including:

  • hot flashes
  • night sweats
  • irregular menses
  • mood swings
  • vaginal dryness
  • burning
  • itching, and more

Estrogens are also used in the treatment of a variety of other conditions associated with a deficiency of estrogen hormones, including female hypogonadism, ovarian failure, or ovariectomy (removal of ovary).

Other uses include:

  • preventing osteoporosis
  • improving blood lipid profile
  • maintaining bladder
  • urinary tract function
  • Topical estrogen therapy has been used for reduction of wrinkles and skin softening effects.
  • Estrogen Side Effects
  • Side effects of estrogen therapy include:
  • Nausea
  • Stomach upset
  • Bloating
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • These effects may be temporary and self-limiting.

Other adverse reactions may include breakthrough bleeding, breast-swelling, breast pain, fluid retention, weight gain, mood swings, depression, decreased libido, increased risk of gallbladder disease, increased risk of thromboembolic disorder and increase risk of breast or uterine cancer.

Do not use natural estrogen during pregnancy.

Progesterone used incorrectly can cause side effects such as:

  • stomach upset
  • changes in appetite
  • weight gain
  • fluid retention and swelling (edema)
  • fatigue
  • acne
  • drowsiness or insomnia
  • allergic skin rashes
  • hives
  • fever
  • headache
  • depression
  • breast discomfort or enlargement
  • premenstrual syndrome (PMS)-like symptoms
  • altered menstrual cycles
  • irregular bleeding, and other side effects

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Intravaginal progesterone gel is LIKELY SAFE when used as part of infertility treatment. However, progesterone is LIKELY UNSAFE when used during pregnancy for any other purpose.

There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking progesterone if you are breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Arterial disease: Don’t use progesterone if you have arterial disease.

Breast cancer: Avoid use unless you are directed to do so by your healthcare provider.

#3: What is Estrogen Dominance?

Put simply estrogen dominance is an overabundance of estrogen in comparison to the amount of progesterone in the body.

How to Know If You Have Estrogen Dominance and What To Do About It

Estrogen dominance may become worse when first beginning bioidentical progesterone cream. When first introducing progesterone back into the body after an extended period of progesterone deficiency, the estrogen receptor sites ‘wake up’ (are stimulated), which enhances the action of estrogen for a short period of time.

This is a sign that the body is responding well to the progesterone, even though at the beginning it can exacerbate estrogen dominance symptoms such as breast tenderness and swelling, spotting, fluid retention, dizziness, hot flashes, fatigue, headaches and nausea.

This can be very worrisome, but should level out and go away over the next couple of cycles, as progesterone levels increase.

It’s all about balance

Estrogen Effects

  • Stimulates breasts cysts
  • Increases body fat storage
  • Salt and fluid retention
  • Depression and headaches
  • Interferes with thyroid hormone
  • Increases blood clotting and risk of stroke
  • Decreases libido (sex drive)
  • Impairs blood sugar control
  • Loss of zinc and retention of copper
  • Reduced oxygen level in all cells
  • Increased risk of endometrial cancer
  • Increased risk of breast cancer
  • Helps decrease bone loss slightly

Progesterone Effects

  • Protects against breast cysts
  • Helps use fat for energy and keep it off hips
  • Natural diuretic (water pill)
  • Natural anti-depressant Facilitates thyroid hormone action
  • Normalizes blood clotting
  • Increases libido
  • Normalizes blood sugar levels
  • Normalizes zinc and copper levels
  • Restores proper cell oxygen levels
  • Prevents endometrial cancer
  • Helps prevent breast cancer
  • Increases bone building

#4: Daily Stress affects progesterone levels.

In today’s busy and stressful world it’s easy to become over worked and stressed unfortunately stress can wreak havoc on your hormones.

How? Stress increases cortisol levels. Cortisol competes for progesterone receptors; the higher the stress, the more cortisol the body produces. This means that those receptor sites may be occupied by cortisol rather than progesterone, which may require a temporary increase in progesterone supplementation.

If you are not managing your stress levels, the bioidentical progesterone cream you are currently using may not be effective this is because of elevated cortisol levels. Understanding the relationship between stress, cortisol, and progesterone levels

6 Effective Strategies for Reducing Stress & Anxiety

#5: Severe progesterone deficiency –

Hot flashes requires more time to increase progesterone levels with bioidentical progesterone cream supplementation.

It takes anywhere from 1-3 months to bring progesterone levels back up to balanced levels in women with very low progesterone levels. For in-depth information about managing hot flashes and estrogen dominance go here.

#6: Is it okay to use bioidentical progesterone cream if you don’t know if you have low progesterone levels?

It would be best to know if you have low progesterone levels or not. You would not want to work to increase progesterone levels if you don’t need to.

Over time, using progesterone cream when it isn’t needed may create a situation in which too much progesterone is in the body. That being said, there are many clear signs of progesterone deficiency and testing is relatively easy.

There are at-home saliva hormone tests or your doctor can test your levels as well.

Reaching optimal hormone levels takes time and you may have to endure a period of adjustment before you achieve that perfect balance.

First, hormone levels must be tested and routinely assessed, along with your symptoms, to find the right dose for your prescription(s).

During this time, hormonal imbalances may continue to occur or temporarily worsen. This is what makes ongoing communication with your practitioner paramount as well as routine attendance to follow-up appointments.

Your practitioner will use these check-ins to make effective adjustments to your prescriptions and treatment plan in an effort to reach the ultimate goal: optimal hormone balance.

50 minute video?
Balancing Hormones Naturally, Estrogen & Progesterone w/ Dr. Shari Caplan

The adverse effects that may occur depend upon which hormone levels remain unbalanced.

If you don’t use the right amount of biological hormones for your individual symptoms you could develop:

  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Increased acne
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Breast tenderness
  • Itching at the application site

It may be frustrating to continue to see the same kinds of symptoms for which you’re seeking treatment, but as your testing continues and your hormone levels are adjusted, you will feel much better.

What to Expect When You First Start Using Progesterone Cream

Once your hormones have reached an ideal balance, you are likely to see a drastic reduction or complete absence of these adverse effects. The adjustment period may take several visits, but it is well worth the results.

Estrogen Uses

Natural estrogens are used for replacement therapy in perimenopausal, menopausal, and post-menopausal women for the treatment of the following

  • symptoms:
  • hot flashes
  • night sweats
  • irregular menses
  • mood swings
  • vaginal dryness
  • burning
  • itching

Estrogens are also used in the treatment of a variety of other conditions associated with a deficiency of estrogen hormones, including female hypogonadism, ovarian failure, or ovariectomy (removal of ovary).

Other uses include preventing osteoporosis, improving blood lipid profile, and maintaining bladder and urinary tract function. Topical estrogen therapy has been used for reduction of wrinkles and skin softening effects.

Estrogen Side Effects

  • Side effects of estrogen therapy include:
  • Nausea
  • Stomach upset
  • Bloating
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness

These effects may be temporary and self-limiting.

Other adverse reactions may include breakthrough bleeding, breast-swelling, breast pain, fluid retention, weight gain, mood swings, depression, decreased libido, increased risk of gallbladder disease, increased risk of thromboembolic disorder and increase risk of breast or uterine cancer.

Do not use natural estrogen during pregnancy.

#7: A one-time overdose of progesterone cream is virtually impossible.

Just because overdosing on bioidentical progesterone is highly unlikely, it does not mean you should use more than the suggested dosage.

It does mean that the female body can withstand high levels of progesterone in the body relatively well because, during the last trimester of pregnancy, the placenta is producing 300-400mg of progesterone a day.

If you accidentally use too much or apply the cream more than 2 times in a day, you should be fine. Even if you used a whole jar in a day, it may just make you feel very sleepy.

Be sure you always stay within the recommended dosage guidelines recommended by your healthcare practitioner or on the label of the product you are using.

#8: Discontinue use of progesterone cream by weaning off of it over time.

When you decide it is time to stop supplementing with natural progesterone cream, simply reduce the amount you use each time you apply it.
Do this on the last cycle you plan on using it.

If you are pregnant, do not do this until at least the 16th week of gestation, when the placenta takes over progesterone production.

#9: Health conditions to avoid bioidentical progesterone.

There are certain health conditions in which natural progesterone cream supplementation should be avoided.
If you have a history of the following below you should not use natural progesterone cream:

1. gestational pemphigoid (dermatosis of pregnancy)
2. jaundice of pregnancy
3. severe active liver disease
4. hepatitis, rotor syndrome
5. Dubin-Johnson syndrome
6. unexplained/abnormal vaginal bleeding

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