Probably the most well-known hormones related to sexuality are testosterone, estrogen and progesterone. While the latter two have traditionally been associated with women and the former with men, the truth is that these are three hormones that men and women have in their bodies (albeit at different levels). Of these three, the most memorable by the majority of the population are testosterone and estrogen, progesterone is often relegated to a secondary role. However, we are dealing with a hormone of great importance to the body, the importance and roles that we will be talking about throughout this article.
Progesterone: general characteristics
It is known as progesterone a one of the main sex hormones secreted by the body. Progesterone is a steroid of great importance, being in fact considered a precursor substance for testosterone and estrogen.
It is mainly related to female sexuality, being mainly secreted in the ovaries (which the corpus luteum emits) and the placenta. This secretion shows sharp increases in the later stages of ovulation, leading to thickening of the endometrium. However, the ovaries and the plant are not the only points where progesterone can be found, as it is also synthesized in small amounts by the adrenal glands.
This hormone is best known for its role in reproduction, And especially at the time of pregnancy and gestation, although this has associated a lot of roles and roles in our body. Its production at the ovarian level begins with the first period and varies throughout the life cycle. Great variations can be seen after ovulation, during pregnancy and menopause, as well as in different medical conditions such as adrenal hyperplasia.
Also present in men
Although generally when we think of progesterone we identify it with the female sex, the truth is that, like testosterone and estrogen, it is a hormone that is present in both sexes. And it is that although its main point of synthesis is the ovaries, as we have said it is also secreted in the adrenal glands.
Moreover, in the case of men, it is also synthesized in very small amounts by the seminal vesicles. So, although it is predominant in women, men also have a certain amount (although much lower than women) of progesterone in their bodies.
Some of the main functions of this hormone
As we have stated above, progesterone is a very important hormone for the human body. While some of the most recognized roles occur in women, they also change and are linked to different roles and functions in men. Among the many roles this hormone plays, some of the most important are as follows.
1. Prepare the endometrium for implantation of the embryo
One of the best-known roles of progesterone is related to reproductive function. And does progesterone actively participates in the preparation of the endometrium, Producing its thickening in order to facilitate a possible implantation of a fertilized egg.
2. Contributes to the maintenance of pregnancy
In the same field as the previous point, the action of progesterone makes it possible to maintain the pregnancy over time by not allowing the existence of changes in the endometrium that could lead to the detachment of the embryo, like that of the cycle menstrual. It paralyzes and slows down the action of estrogen and other hormones.
3. It regulates the menstrual cycle
The presence of low levels of progesterone has been associated with the presence of irregular and abnormal periods, and exogenous progesterone is often prescribed. to improve cycle regularity.
4. It is linked to libido
While we tend to think of other hormones more when we talk about sexual desire, progesterone has been shown in several studies to have a relationship with the level and experience of sexual desire and sensuality.
5. Action on the brain
Progesterone not only has sexual and reproductive effects, but also generates effects on the nervous system. More precisely, it has been observed that generates a depressogenic effect, reducing nerve activation and generate a relaxation of this system. In fact, it facilitates physical relaxation and sleep, having sedative effects. Different studies seem to indicate that it also has an antidepressant and anxiolytic action.
In addition to this, the brain has been detected to have neuroprotective effects that prevent neuronal degeneration, as well as helping to regulate apoptosis or programmed cell death.
6. Growth and maturation
Progesterone is also a relevant hormone in terms of sexual maturation and physical development. For example, is linked to the onset of puberty and the development of secondary sexual characteristics (the latter especially in women).
7. A role in bone
The formation, strength and maintenance of bone density are also affected by progesterone. Specifically, this hormone has been associated with increased functionality of osteoblasts, Which facilitates the generation and formation of bones
Progesterone helps in the development and growth of breasts and mammary glands in women, as well as to prepare them for breastfeeding during pregnancy. However, the emission of milk itself is linked to prolactin.
9. Contributes to glycemic regulation
Another of the multiple roles and roles of progesterone is their involvement in blood sugar regulation, In women and men.
10. Action on the endocrine system
The role of progesterone also extends to the endocrine system and is believed to be a precursor to both estrogen and testosterone. It also participates in the regulation of the synthesis and emission of adrenal hormones.
11. Helps prevent neoplasms
Progesterone also plays an important role in the male body, contributing among other things to prevent prostate hyperplasia and the onset and spread of cancer at this stage of the body. This is partly due to the fact that progesterone prevents testosterone from being converted into dihydrotestosterone.
12. It produces a rise in temperature
The presence of progesterone has been associated with an increase in temperature in different parts of the body, which is associated with the maintenance of vital organs. Specifically, this increase appears in the torso and abdomen, increasing blood flow to these areas.
13. It is linked to the immune system
It is also believed that progesterone acts on the immune system, making it easier to protect the body. It also helps to ensure that pregnancy is not considered a harmful agent and that there is no reaction of the immune system against the fetus by producing immunosuppression of certain components of this system at the same time as allows certain types of leukocytes to interact with the endothelium to facilitate implantation of embryos. It has also been shown to improve the body’s immunity, such as in the intestinal lining.
14. Regulates body fat
Progesterone is a diuretic and has also been associated with lipid control and management. Among other effects, it participates in their transformation into energy, while managing the accumulation of fat in different parts of the body.
Disorders and alterations to which it is linked
This hormone is of great importance for the organism, its lack or excess can generate different repercussions or can attenuate the effect of different alterations.
For example, it has been observed that progesterone inhibits the effect of estrogenSomething that has sometimes been used in the treatment of problems such as endometriosis. A deficiency in progesterone is also associated with more fluid, heavy and irregular periods. In addition, drugs containing progesterone are often prescribed in order to decrease the symptoms of polycystic ovaries.
This also prevents hypothyroidism generated by high levels of estrogen. Likewise, it is observed that their presence at appropriate levels makes it difficult for miscarriages to occur. In men, it protects against prostate cancer.
On the other hand, an excess of this hormone has been associated with the presence of drowsiness, nausea, cramps and headaches. It can also lead to breast hypersensitivity, decreased libido, mood swings (related to PMS), and water and fat retention.
- Finkelstein, JS et al. (2013). Gonadal steroids and body composition, strength and sexual function in men, The New England Journal of Medicine 369; 1011-1022.
- Gibson, CL; Gray, LJ; Bath, PM and Murphy, SP (2008). Progesterone for the treatment of experimental brain damage; a systematic review. Brain 131 (Pt 2): 318-28