The Benefits and Side Effects of Progesterone

By the National Institutes of Health. Reviewed by Wendy Wells, NMD.

Why Is Progesterone Prescribed?

Progesterone is in a class of medications called progestins (female hormones). Progesterone is used as a part of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in women who have passed menopause (the change of life) and have not had a hysterectomy (surgery to remove the uterus). Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) usually includes estrogen, which is used to treat the symptoms of menopause and reduce the risk of developing certain diseases. Estrogen however, can also cause abnormal thickening of the lining of the uterus and increase the risk of developing uterine cancer. Progesterone helps to prevent this thickening, thereby decreasing the risk of developing uterine cancer. Progesterone is also used to bring on menstruation (period) in women of childbearing age who have had normal periods and then stopped menstruating. It works as part of hormone replacement therapy by decreasing the amount of estrogen in the uterus. It works to bring on menstruation by replacing the natural progesterone that some women are missing. Progesterone should not be confused with progestins, which are synthetically produced progestogens.

How Should Progesterone Be Used Safely?

Progesterone comes as a capsule to take by mouth. It is usually taken once a day in the evening or at bedtime. You will probably take progesterone on a rotating schedule that alternates 10-12 days when you take progesterone with 16-18 days when you do not take the medication. Your doctor will tell you exactly when to take progesterone. To help you remember to take progesterone, take it around the same time in the evening. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Take progesterone exactly as directed. Do not take more or less of it or take it more often than prescribed by your doctor.

Continue to take progesterone as directed even if you feel well. Do not stop taking progesterone without talking to your doctor.

Progesterone - Other Uses

This medication may be prescribed for other uses; ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

What Special Precautions Should I Follow?

Before taking progesterone:

Special Dietary Instructions When Taking Progesterone?

Talk to your doctor about drinking grapefruit juice while taking progesterone.

If I Forget To Take My Prescribed Dose of Progesterone?

Take the missed dose of progesterone as soon as you remember it. However, if it is almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose of progesterone to make up for a missed one.

Progesterone Side Effects?

Progesterone may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:

Some side effects can be serious. The following symptoms are uncommon, but if you experience any of them, call your doctor immediately:

Laboratory animals who were given progesterone developed tumors. It is not known if progesterone increases the risk of tumors in humans. Talk to your doctor about the risks of taking progesterone.

Medications like progesterone may cause abnormal blood clotting. This may cut off the blood supply to the brain, heart, lungs, or eyes and cause serious problems. Call your doctor if you experience any of the symptoms listed above as serious side effects. Talk to your doctor about the risks of taking progesterone.

Progesterone may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while taking progesterone.

If you experience a serious side effect, you or your doctor may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online, or by phone 1-800-332-1088

What Storage Conditions Are Needed For Progesterone?

Keep progesterone in the container it came in, tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store it at room temperature and away from excess heat and moisture (not in the bathroom). Throw away any medication that is outdated or no longer needed. Talk to your pharmacist about the proper disposal of your medication.
In case of emergency/overdose

In Case of an Progesterone Overdose

Call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. If the victim has collapsed or is not breathing, call local emergency services at 911.

What Other Information Should I Know About Progesterone?

Keep all appointments with your doctor.

Before having any laboratory test or biopsy (removal of tissue for testing), tell your doctor and the laboratory personnel that you are taking progesterone.

Do not let anyone else take your medication. Ask your pharmacist any questions you have about refilling your prescription.

Progeterone Brand Names

Progesterone Resources

Hormones and MenopauseExit Site Women's health tips from the National Institute on Aging

Menopause & Hormone Therapy:Exit Site Menopause treatments and talking to your doctor by, the federal government source for women's health.

Menopausal Hormone Replacement Therapy and Cancer RiskExit Site The American Cancer Society discusses how hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can affect a woman's risk of getting certain cancers.

MEDLINEplus Health Encyclopedia - Menopause A.D.A.M. / National Library of Medicine

Menopause Symptoms Mayo clinic

Menopause Symptoms

What are the symptoms of menopause and their treatments? Univ Maryland

Menopause Self-help Guide National Health Service, NHS Direct online United Kingdom

Menopause Symptoms Aetna InteliHealth / Harvard Medical School

Last Revised - 07/01/2004

National Institutes of Health.

Wendy Wells

Reviewed by Wendy Wells January 2013

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Menopause Topics
Life-stages, perimenopause, treatment safety, bio-identical hormones, progesterone cream, and estriol lotion.