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Use of Progesterone in the First Trimester of Pregnancy

written by: Suzanne Florin • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 12/23/2010

There are instances during pregnancy when progesterone rises slowly, particularly during the first trimester. Progesterone use is one way to remedy this problem, thus preventing premature birth. Read this article to know more this method, the possible risks, and the indications for use.

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    Overview

    The first trimester of pregnancy is a very crucial point in a baby's development. As early as the fifth week, the nervous system and the circulatory system begin their rapid development, creating the basic life support system for the baby. It is during this period that progesterone is very much needed by the baby for these reasons: 1) This hormone provides the basic nutrients in the uterine lining to sustain the baby's growth; and 2) Progesterone prevents contractions in the uterus, a condition that can lead to miscarriage.

    The corpus luteum, which is responsible for the production of progesterone, may at certain points fail to produce an adequate supply of this hormone. This slow rise in the levels of progesterone commonly occurs during the first trimester. Progesterone use is recommended by some doctors in order to prevent complications in pregnancy, such as miscarriage.

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    Types of Progesterone Supplements

    Progesterone supplements are relatively safe to use and they do not pose any type of damage to the developing baby. Strict adherence to the doctor's advice in taking the medication must be done in order to gain the full benefits of this treatment.

    Progesterone Capsules

    There are two types of progesterone capsules: oral and vaginal. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages, and these are discussed below:

    • Oral Capsules

    The components of this progesterone supplement are processed in the liver; this organ is responsible for breaking down a good supply of this hormone. However, medical studies have shown that patients who use this type of medication do not gain better results than those who use injected progesterone. Aside from that, progesterone capsules are also likely to cause side effects such as drowsiness and irritability. On the other hand, taking the medication orally is more efficient and convenient than taking the vaginal capsule.

    • Vaginal Capsules

    These capsules are to be inserted three times each day, and the method can be messy. Once the capsule melts, it leaves some residue that combines with vaginal discharge. Progesterone capsules designed to be taken orally are sometimes prescribed for vaginal use in order to avoid the side effects often linked with oral administration. However, this method is not approved by the FDA, since each capsule is designed for a different means of administration.

    Vaginal Gel

    For over a decade, this type of progesterone supplementation has been found as effective as progesterone injections. The gel is applied directly in the vagina once a day. It works by providing a steady release of progesterone from the vaginal walls straight to the endometrium. It is safe to use even up to the 12th week of pregnancy, and it is the only once-a-day type of progesterone supplementation that is approved by the FDA.

    This progesterone gel comes with an applicator that has a smooth rounded tip similar to a tampon. The means of application is convenient and simple, and the slight build-up of residue can easily be removed in the shower.

    Vaginal Suppositories

    These are wax-based suppositories that are inserted in the vagina. Once the wax melts, a release of the hormone takes place. However, these suppositories leave a high amount of residue, which can be quite messy. They are to be applied twice or three times daily, so they can be incovenient as they can interrupt your daily activities.

    Progesterone Injections

    This progesterone supplement is oil-based, and is injected into a muscle once a day. A long, thick needle is used in this method to provide ease in penetrating the thick layers of skin and muscle in the buttocks (the recommended injection site).

    Although the efficacy of this method is well-known, it has some disadvantages:

    • Mood swings and sleepiness are likely to occur, since the progesterone can travel to the brain and not directly to the area where it is needed.
    • The injection site might develop soreness or inflammation.
    • Administration of this medication might require another person's help, thus it can be inconvenient to both the patient and the caregiver.

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    References

    Conceiving Concepts: Types of Testosterone

    About.com: Using Progesterone to Prevent Miscarriage