Progesterone supplementation is available in several forms, and women take it for a variety of reasons. As is the case with almost any medication, progesterone therapy is associated with specific side effects. Some of these side effects are particular to the formulation of the progesterone supplement such as progesterone suppositories or injections, but most side effects -- like spotting -- are specific to the progesterone itself. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing troublesome side effects of progesterone therapy.
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Your doctor may prescribe progesterone therapy if you have a condition in which your progesterone level is too low and is causing unwanted symptoms. These conditions include infertility caused by a low progesterone level, an irregular menstrual cycle, and endometriosis and the pain associated with the condition. In addition, progesterone may be used to help treat certain cancers, reports MayoClinic.com. Your doctor may also prescribe progesterone replacement therapy if you have gone through menopause and not had a hysterectomy.
If you are a woman of childbearing age who is having a difficult time getting pregnant due to a condition, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, that causes a low progesterone level, your doctor may recommend progesterone injections, cream or suppositories to kick start and regulate your menstrual cycle. Because an irregular menstrual cycle is associated with anovulation, or failure to ovulate, regulating your cycle may increase your chances of becoming pregnant. If you should become pregnant, your doctor may recommend continuing progesterone therapy if your body does not make enough of the hormone to maintain a pregnancy.
If you have experienced menopause and your ovaries are no longer producing progesterone, progesterone replacement therapy is available to lower your increased risk of uterine cancer after menopause by protecting the lining of your uterus from becoming too thick. Progesterone therapy is also combined with estrogen therapy as a complete hormone replacement to manage symptoms of menopause such as insomnia and hot flashes.
The side effects associated with all types of progesterone therapy, including suppositories, are numerous and include abnormal vaginal bleeding. Increased bleeding during menstruation, amenorrhea -- cessation of your monthly period -- and spotting in between periods are all types of abnormal bleeding that can occur during therapy. Other common side effects include headache, water retention, changes in mood, drowsiness, weight gain, dizziness, abdominal pain and breast tenderness.
Although stable at room temperature, once you insert a vaginal or rectal progesterone suppository, the preparation begins to melt due to your body temperature. What may appear to you to be spotting due to vaginal bleeding may actually be a small amount of leakage, from the vagina or anus, of the liquefied suppository. Certain formulations of progesterone suppositories are associated with orange and brown discharge due to the medication itself. If you are having difficulty discerning whether the spotting is due to the suppository or vaginal bleeding, talk to your doctor.
If you have certain health conditions, proceed with progesterone therapy with extreme caution. In some cases, progesterone replacement therapy may be contraindicated. These conditions include migraine headache; asthma; epilepsy; a history of breast disease or breast cancer; diabetes; a history of heart disease, such as heart attack or stroke; a history of vascular disease, such as blood clots and deep vein thrombosis; and a history of dementia-related memory loss. Progesterone therapy may make these conditions worse and put you at risk for serious, or even life-threatening, medical conditions. Be sure to notify your doctor of any of these conditions before beginning therapy.