What to Know About Progesterone Cream


Progesterone cream is a product typically used to improve women's health. A hormone found naturally in the body and produced mainly in the ovaries, progesterone is a key element of hormone replacement therapy (a treatment commonly pursued by midlife women experiencing menopausal symptoms).

Typically made from soy or wild yam (Dioscorea villosa), progesterone cream is applied directly to the skin rather than taken orally as in hormone replacement therapy. Progesterone cream is said to alleviate menopausal symptoms (such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness) and protect against menopause-related bone loss. In addition, non-menopausal women sometimes use progesterone cream to fight fatigue, improve mood, increase libido, and fight weight gain. Progesterone cream is also used to reduce signs of aging in the skin.

Menopausal Symptoms

Research on the use of progesterone cream among menopausal women has yielded mixed results. In a report published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, for instance, investigators sized up the available studies on the use of progesterone cream for the management of menopausal symptoms and protection against osteoporosis.

Due to a lack of consistency in study findings (as well as a lack of credibility in certain studies), the report's authors concluded that progesterone cream is "an unsubstantiated treatment option" for women undergoing menopause.

In another report, scientists found progesterone cream to be ineffective in the treatment of menopausal symptoms. Published in Menopause International, the study involved 223 healthy postmenopausal women with severe menopausal symptoms.

For six months, study members applied either progesterone cream or a placebo each day. While women given progesterone cream showed a significantly greater improvement in physical functioning and social functioning compared to members of the placebo group, progesterone cream was no more effective than placebo in the treatment of menopausal symptoms (such as hot flashes and night sweats).

Skin Health Benefits

In a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology, scientists determined that progesterone cream may help increase skin firmness and elasticity. Involving 40 peri-menopausal and post-menopausal women, the four-month-long study also found that progesterone cream helped fight wrinkles.

Side Effects

In some cases, the use of progesterone cream may promote moderate weight gain and trigger a number of side effects, including drowsiness, nausea, headaches, and breast pain. It may alter hormone levels. Since repeatedly applying progesterone cream to the same area of skin may lead to skin irritation, proponents suggest rubbing the cream into different areas with each use.

There's some concern that some natural progesterone creams do not contain enough progesterone to be effective in alleviating menopausal symptoms or protecting against bone loss. Diosgenin, a phytoestrogen found in wild yam and soy, must be converted in a laboratory to progesterone (the body cannot convert diosgenin into progesterone on its own).

So, only preparations that have been made by chemically converting the phytoestrogen are believed to be active. Look for "progesterone USP" on the label or for help in finding an effective progesterone cream, consult a qualified healthcare professional.

Keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and, due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label. Also, the safety of supplements for pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established.

Alternative Options

A number of natural remedies show promise for the treatment of menopausal symptoms. For example, there's some evidence that black cohosh, soy, and red clover may help reduce hot flashes. Certain foods may also help.

A Word From Verywell

Widely available for purchase online, progesterone cream is sold in many drugstores and natural-foods stores. But, it's too soon to recommend progesterone cream for health purposes, due to a lack of supporting research. If you're considering using it, talk to your doctor first. Keep in mind that alternative medicine should not be used as a substitute for standard care in the treatment of a health condition.

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