Progesterone and Depression
Almost inevitably, I find that my patients that are Estrogen Dominant are psychologically
depressed. If the depression varies with the menstrual cycle, then that depression is hormonal.
Progesterone can help with the component of the depression that varies with the
menstrual cycle, IF the patient removes xenoestrogens (environmental estrogens) and phytoestrogens.
The patient becomes less anxious more calm and less depressed. Progesterone is known as the
John Lee, MD wrote this about Estrogen Dominance and Depression, "What Your Doctor May Not Tell You about
Menopause" by John Lee, MD page 121.
Excess estrogen, however, can have a negative effect on mood.
This has to do with copper and
zinc ratios. Copper and zinc are important cofactors for brain enzymes. Estrogen increases
a blood protein, ceruloplasmin, which binds to copper and prevents dietary copper from finding its
way into brain cells. Too much ceruloplasmin leaves too much copper in the blood, causing
zinc levels to drop in the blood and the brain. The result is an imbalance that leads to
exaggerated stress reactions, serious mood swings, and depression. (Sounds like PMS, doesn't
John Lee, MD wrote this about Postpartum Depression, "What Your Doctor May Not Tell You about
Menopause" by John Lee, MD page 89, 127.
Many women experience depression in the days (and weeks) following childbirth. Other symptoms
include headache, irritability, and sleeplessness.
The depression can cause incapacitation and be prolonged.
Research by Brian Harris and colleagues in Wales found that among 120 women, those with the highest prenatal
and lowest post natal progesterone levels also scored highest on measures of postpartum
Recall that as pregnancy advances, placental production of progesterone rises to levels of 350 mg
to 400 milligrams a day, and the ovaries' contribution at that point is nil. With delivery,
the placenta derived progesterone is suddenly gone. The only source of progesterone at that
time would be the adrenal glands. It is possible that adrenal exhaustion plays a role in a
woman's inability to provide even a modicum of progesterone in the day following childbirth.
Postpartum depression is notoriously difficult to treat. It would seem appropriate to measure
progesterone levels a day or two after childbirth and, if found to be low, progesterone cream
could be promptly supplemented. It is possible that his simple and safe therapy could make
postpartum depression much easier to treat. For more detailed information on nutrition,
hormones, and postpartum depression, please read the excellent book, "A Natural Guide
to Pregnancy and Postpartum Health (Raffelock, Roundtree, Avery, 2002).
Progesterone is the hormone that makes possible the survival of the fertilized egg. It maintains
the lining of the uterus, which the fertilized egg will attach to and from which the germinating
egg and the resultant embryo will gain sustenance during its first stages of growth. As might
be expect, the surge of progesterone at the time of ovulation is one source of sex drive, the
urge to procreate, by which is meant the sexual drive to bring egg and sperm together.
(Doesn't it make sense that Mother Nature would connect sex drive to the hormone that comes at
In pregnancy, progesterone is necessary to prevent the premature shedding of the uterine lining.
Any drop in progesterone level or blockage of its receptor sites at this time will result in the loss
of the embryo (miscarriage). This in fact is the action of the antiprogesterone compound and abortifacient RU-486.
As the placenta develops, it assumes and progressively increases the production of progesterone for the
duration of the gestation period until the birth of the baby. During the third trimester, the placenta is producing
progesterone at the rate of 300 to 400 milligrams per day, an astoundingly high level for
hormone production, which is usually measured in micrograms per day. It is interesting to note
that many women say the aside from the physical discomfort of carrying all that extra weight and the
constriction of organs such as the bladder, they never felt better than in their third trimester
of pregnancy, when progesterone production is very high!
At birth, the level of progesterone production drops suddenly, contributing to postpartum
depression in some women. Postpartum depression, should it occur, can often be effectively treated with
natural bioidentical progesterone cream.
Women commonly report that after getting rid of xenoestrogens and phytoestrogens and taking
progesterone, they feel much less anxious and less stressed out and their depression will
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