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What Are Progestogens?

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  • Written By: T. Carrier
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 23 November 2016
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Progestogens are a type of steroid hormone. Women typically produce the natural forms of these substances around menstrual cycles, and the hormones are particularly prominent in pregnancy. Synthetic versions known as progestins may be used as pharmaceutical drugs for various purposes, ranging from bleeding regulation to birth control.

The ovaries primarily produce progesterone — the natural progestogen — in females. This substance goes through several conversions to reach its final form, with the latter stages changing pregnenolone into P4. Placental progestogen production is also commonplace in many species. In addition, the adrenal glands and fat tissue produce some of the hormone.

Levels of the natural progesterone hormone are particularly high during pregnancy. They contribute to the fetus’ survival. The hormone is also vital in inducing pregnancy, as it helps the uterus prepare for egg implantation. In non-pregnant women, levels are highest before and after ovulation.

In addition to its role in women’s fertility, progesterone also lays the foundation for the development of other steroid hormones. Five major categories of naturally occurring steroids exist: glucocorticoid, mineralocorticoid, androgen, estrogen, and progestogon. Steroid-producing tissues use progestogens as a base for the other hormone types. Specialized cells found in specific body parts will then perform the final conversion into a specific type of hormone.

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While natural substances may be classified as progestogens, some professionals make a distinction and only call synthetically produced substances progestogens or progestins. Artificial progestogen medications are made in a laboratory and may mimic the effects of progesterone. They may in fact possess the same chemical properties. In other cases, the medications bind to naturally occurring progesterone and mimic its effects. Substances with progestogen components have many pharmaceutical uses.

Since progestogen can impact a menstrual cycle, it can possibly control abnormal bleeding. It can also function as a female birth control substance because it will simulate the conditions of pregnancy and therefore make further egg implantation more difficult. Women experiencing menopause may benefit from the substance as a means of hormone replacement therapy as well. In addition, these substances can be combined with androgen male hormones to suppress sperm and serve as contraception for men. Progestogen hormones even have appetite-inducing properties, which may be helpful for individuals suffering from appetite-killing conditions.

Negative consequences may accompany progestogen use. Fluid retention and weight gain are common risks, as are gastrointestinal problems like constipation and nausea. More concerning potential effects impact cholesterol levels, subsequently leading to hypertension and other cardiac problems. Older individuals present a higher risk of complications.

Pharmaceutical containing progestogens may be delivered to the patient in several ways. Ingestible tablets are perhaps the easiest, most convenient form. Creams and suppositories applied around the vaginal area are also available. In some cases, a pharmaceutical device may be implanted underneath the skin.

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