How is it used?
Since progesterone levels vary predictably throughout the menstrual cycle, multiple measurements can be used to help diagnose infertility problems. Progesterone can be measured to determine whether or not a woman has ovulated (released an egg from the ovary), to determine when ovulation occurred and to monitor the success of medically induced ovulation.
In early pregnancy, progesterone measurements may be used, along with human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) testing, to help diagnose an pregnancy or failing pregnancy (one leading to miscarriage), although these tests will not differentiate between the two conditions. Progesterone levels may also be measured throughout a high-risk pregnancy to help evaluate placental and fetal health.
Progesterone levels may be monitored in women who have trouble maintaining a pregnancy, as low levels of the hormone can lead to miscarriage. If a woman is receiving progesterone injections to help support her early pregnancy, her progesterone levels may be monitored on a regular basis to help determine the effectiveness of that treatment.
In women who are not pregnant, progesterone levels may be used, along with other tests, to help determine the cause of abnormal uterine bleeding.
When is it requested?
Progesterone levels are measured:
- As part of an infertility assessment, when a woman is having trouble getting pregnant and the doctor wants to verify that she is ovulating normally
- To determine if and when ovulation has occurred following drug therapy to induce ovulation
- When symptoms, such as abdominal pain and spotting, suggest an pregnancy or threatened miscarriage
- To monitor the effectiveness of treatment when a pregnant woman requires progesterone injections to help maintain her pregnancy
- To monitor placental and fetal health during a high-risk pregnancy
- When a non-pregnant woman is experiencing abnormal uterine bleeding.
What does the test result mean?
Interpretation of progesterone test results requires knowledge of where a woman is in her menstrual cycle or pregnancy. Progesterone levels usually start to rise when an egg is released from the ovary, continue to rise for several days, and then either continue to rise with early pregnancy or fall to start menstruation.
If progesterone levels do not rise and fall on a monthly basis, a woman may not be ovulating or having menstrual periods. If levels do not rise normally during an early pregnancy, the pregnancy may be and/or may be failing. If serial measurements do not show increasing progesterone levels over time, there may be problems with the placenta and fetus.
Levels of progesterone will be naturally higher during pregnancies that involve multiples (twins, triplets, etc.) than those in which there is only one fetus.
Increased progesterone levels are also seen occasionally with luteal ovarian cysts, , and with a rare form of ovarian cancer.
Increased levels are occasionally due to an overproduction of progesterone by the adrenal glands.
In late pregnancy, low levels of progesterone may be associated with and pre-eclampsia (pregnancy-induced high blood pressure).
Is there anything else I should know?
Taking oestrogen and progesterone supplements may cause inaccurate results.