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Progesterone is a natural female sex hormone.

Follow carefully the directions your doctor gives to you about taking progesterone. It is prescribed for a selected number of days each month.

Any side-effects are usually mild, but may include feeling sick, weight gain, and headache.

Type of medicineA progestogen
Used forA variety of gynaecological problems, including infertility, early pregnancy, and as part of hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
Also calledCrinone® vaginal gel; Cyclogest® pessaries; Gestone® injection; Utrogestan® capsules
Available asCapsules, vaginal gel, pessaries, and injection

Progesterone is a naturally occurring female sex hormone which is essential for the function of the female reproductive system. It is produced in the ovaries during the second half of the menstrual cycle, and also by the placenta during pregnancy. The amount of progesterone a woman produces declines during the menopause.

You will have been prescribed progesterone to supplement your naturally produced progesterone for a reason which your doctor will have explained to you. It works by adjusting the balance of your body's own hormones. It is available in a number of different formulations (such as gel, injection, capsules, and pessaries). Each formulation is prescribed for a different gynaecological reason.

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking progesterone, it is important that your doctor knows:

  • If you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
  • If you have migraines, asthma, epilepsy or high blood pressure.
  • If you are having any vaginal bleeding other than your normal monthly period.
  • If you have ever had a blood clot in your legs or lungs.
  • If you have a heart condition.
  • If you have had any problems with the way your liver or kidneys work.
  • If you have ever had depression.
  • If you have diabetes mellitus (too much sugar in your blood).
  • If you have cancer.
  • If during a pregnancy you had problems such as severe itching, jaundice (yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes), or a skin condition called pemphigoid gestationis.
  • If you have porphyria (this is a rare inherited blood disorder).
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
  • If you are taking or using any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
  • Before you start this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside your pack. The leaflet will give you more information about the brand of progesterone you have been given. It will also provide a full list of side-effects which you may experience.
  • Follow carefully the instructions your doctor has given you. Progesterone is usually only used on a number of specified days during a monthly cycle. This may range from 4 to 25 days of a month depending on the reason it has been prescribed for you. If you are unsure about what to do, check again with your doctor.

If you have been prescribed:

  • Utrogestan® capsules: these should be taken at bedtime, on an empty stomach. This means that you should not take them with or soon after eating food. Just take them on the days of the month your doctor has told you to. You will also be prescribed an oestrogen-containing HRT medicine to take throughout the month.
  • Crinone® vaginal gel: use one 'applicatorful' daily into the vagina. Just use it on the days of the month your doctor has told you to.
  • Cyclogest® pessaries: use twice daily on the days of the month your doctor has told you to. Pessaries are generally designed to be inserted into the vagina, but Cyclogest® pessaries are also suitable to be inserted into the back passage, as a suppository. If you are unsure which is the correct way for you to use them, check again with your doctor.
  • Gestone® injection: make sure you know how to use this injection. If you are unsure which days to use it, or how much to use, check again with your doctor or clinic.
  • Try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor. This is so your doctor can check on your progress. Also, remember to keep any routine appointments for breast screening and cervical smear tests.
  • If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment that you are on progesterone.
  • If you have diabetes you may need to check your blood glucose more frequently, as progesterone can affect the levels of sugar in your blood. Your doctor will advise you about this.
  • It is best to avoid smoking and drinking too much alcohol while on progesterone. If you are a smoker and you would like advice on how to quit, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.
  • If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are suitable to take with progesterone. This is because some herbal preparations (such as St John's wort) can interfere with the way it works.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. These usually improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side-effects continue or become troublesome.

Common progesterone side-effectsWhat can I do if I experience this?
Feeling sickEat simple meals (avoid rich or spicy foods)
HeadacheAsk your pharmacist to recommend a suitable painkiller. If the headache continues or is unusually severe, speak with your doctor as soon as possible
Irregular periods, breast tenderness, weight changes, feeling dizzy or sleepy, difficulty sleeping, changes in sexual desire, mood changes, skin rash, acne-like spots, changes in hair growth, swollen feet and ankles (due to fluid retention)Speak with your doctor if any of these become troublesome

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to this medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.

Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.

This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.

Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.

If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Further reading & references

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Helen Allen
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Prof Cathy Jackson
Document ID:
3501 (v23)
Last Checked:
Next Review:
The Information Standard - certified member

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