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Progesterone: characteristics and functions of this hormone

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Testosterone, estrogens and progesterone are undoubtedly the best known hormones linked to sexuality. Although the last two have traditionally been associated with women and the first with men, the truth is that It deals with three hormones that both men and women have in their body (despite the fact that in different levels). Of these three, the most remembered by the majority of the population are testosterone and estrogens, often being progesterone relegated to a secondary role. However, we are facing a hormone of great relevance to the body, whose importance and roles we are going to talk about throughout this article.

  • Related article: "Types of hormones and their functions in the human body"

Progesterone: general characteristics

It is known as progesterone a one of the main sex hormones secreted by the body. Progesterone is a highly relevant steroid, being in fact considered a precursor substance for both testosterone and estrogens.

It is mainly linked to female sexuality, being secreted mainly in the ovaries (the corpus luteum of these being what emits it) and the placenta. Said secretion presents large increases in the later moments of ovulation, being linked to the thickening of the endometrium. However, ovaries and plants are not the only points where progesterone can be found, as it is also synthesized in small amounts by the adrenal glands.

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This hormone is especially known for its role in reproduction, and especially at the time of pregnancy and pregnancy, although it has associated a large number of roles and roles in our body. Its production at the ovarian level begins with the first menstruation and varies throughout the life cycle. Large variations can be observed after ovulation, in pregnancy and in menopause, as well as in different medical conditions such as adrenal hyperplasia.

Also present in males

Although generally when we think of progesterone we identify it with the female gender, the truth is that just as What happens with testosterone and estrogens, it is a hormone that is present in both sexes. And it is that despite the fact that its main point of synthesis is the ovaries, as we have said it is also secreted in the adrenal glands.

In addition, in the case of men it is also synthesized in a very small amount by the seminal vesicles. Thus, although it predominates in women, men also have a certain amount (although very less compared to that of women) of progesterone in their body.

  • Related article: "Endocrine system: anatomy, parts and functions"

Some of the main functions of this hormone

As we have indicated previously, progesterone is a very important hormone for the human body. Although some of the most recognized occur in the female gender, they also alter and are linked to different roles and functions in men Among the many roles that this hormone plays, some of the most prominent are the following.

1. Prepares the endometrium for implantation of the embryo

One of the best known roles of progesterone has to do with reproductive function. And is that progesterone actively participates in the preparation of the endometrium, producing its thickening in order to facilitate a possible implantation of a fertilized ovum.

2. Contributes to the maintenance of pregnancy

In the same area as the previous point, the action of progesterone allows the pregnancy to be maintained over time by not allow the existence of changes in the endometrium that could generate the detachment of the embryo, such as those of the cycle menstrual. Paralyzes and slows down the action of estrogens and other hormones.

3. Regulates the menstrual cycle

The presence of low progesterone levels has been associated with the presence of irregular and abnormal menstruations, with exogenous progesterone being often prescribed. in order to improve the regularity of the cycles.

4. It is linked to libido

While we tend to think of other hormones more when it comes to sexual desire, progesterone has demonstrated in various investigations 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 it also has effects on the nervous system. Specifically, it has been observed that generates a depresogenic effect, reducing nerve activation and generating a relaxation of said system. In fact, it facilitates physical relaxation and sleep, having sedative effects. Different studies seem to show that it also has antidepressant and anxiolytic action.

In addition to this, it has been detected in the brain that it has neuroprotective effects that make it difficult to neuronal degeneration, as well as the fact that it contributes to regulating apoptosis or cell death scheduled.

6. Growth and maturation

Progesterone is also a relevant hormone when it comes to 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 the skeleton

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 bone

8. Lactation

Progesterone helps the development and growth of the breasts of the breasts and mammary glands in women, in addition to helping to prepare them for lactation during pregnancy. However, the emission of milk itself is linked to prolactin.

9. Contributes to glycemic regulation

Another of the many roles and roles of progesterone is your participation in regulating glucose levels, both in women and men.

10. Action on the endocrine system

The role of progesterone also extends to the endocrine system, and it is considered a precursor substance for both estrogens 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 aspects to prevent prostate hyperplasia and the development of and expansion of cancer at this point in the body. This is due among other factors to the fact that progesterone prevents testosterone from being converted to dihydrotestosterone.

12. Produces temperature rise

The presence of progesterone has been associated with an increase in temperature in different parts of the body, something associated with the maintenance of vital organs. Specifically, this increase appears in the torso and abdomen, increasing the flow of blood to these areas.

13. Links to the immune system

It is considered that progesterone also acts on the immune system, facilitating the protection of the body. Likewise, it contributes to the pregnancy not being considered a harmful agent and not producing a reaction of the immune system against the fetus by producing immunosuppression of some components of said system at the same time what allows some types of leukocytes to interact with the endothelium to facilitate embryo implantation. It has also been seen that it improves the body's immunity, as occurs for example at the level of the intestinal mucosa.

14. Regulates body fat

Progesterone is a diuretic and has also been associated with lipid control and management. Among other effects, it participates in transforming these into energy, as well as managing the accumulation of fat in different parts of the body.

Related disorders and conditions

This hormone is of great importance for the body, and its lack or excess can generate different repercussions or can mitigate the effect of different alterations.

For example, progesterone has been shown to inhibits the effect of estrogens, something that has been used on occasions in the treatment of problems such as endometriosis. Lack of progesterone is also associated with more fluid, heavy, and irregular periods. Also, progesterone-containing drugs are often prescribed to reduce the symptoms of polycystic ovaries.

It also prevents hypothyroidism caused by high levels of estrogens. Similarly, it is observed that its presence at adequate levels hinders the presence of spontaneous abortions. 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 cause breast hypersensitivity, decreased libido, mood swings (linked to premenstrual dysphoric syndrome), and fluid and fat retention.

Bibliographic references

  • Finkelstein, J.S. et al. (2013). Gonadal steroids and Body Composition, Strength and Sexual Function in Men, The New England Journal of Medicine 369; 1011-1022.
  • Gibson, C.L.; Gray, L.J.; Bath, P.M. & Murphy, S.P. (2008). Progesterone for the treatment of experimental brain injury; a systematic review. Brain 131 (Pt 2): 318-28
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