What is Progesterone?

Superimposed on this picture is the other powerful female hormone, progesterone. Progesterone is produced by the ovary, and its production is cyclical. As soon as the egg is released each month from the ovary, the space that is left (as mentioned earlier) forms the corpus luteum. This suddenly develops the ability of producing progesterone. This production therefore starts shortly after ovulation (the day the egg is released), and continues for the next 14 consecutive days.

Progesterone also has a profound effect on the breasts and the uterus. It causes the breasts to become firmer and possibly larger. It has a dramatic effect on the lining of the uterus. This becomes thicker, and the blood supply more generous. In short, the uterine lining becomes more ready to accept a fertilised egg. The hormone is geared to maintain pregnancy, should this eventuate. If it does not, progesterone production ceases, and the endometrial lining quickly subsides into a normal menstrual blood flow until it is entirely shed.

This whole cyclical affair takes place with amazing regularity. Thought it lasts for 28 days in most women, it varies considerably. Some women experience an entire turnover in 21 days; in others it is as prolonged as 35 days or even more. The reasons for this are not known, but around the 25-30-days cycle is usual for the majority of normal women.

Although events flow along in a swinging fashion for most, it is inevitable that things get off the rails from time to time. Nature does its best to be perfect, but it is exposed to enormous vagaries, most of which are unseen, unfelt and unappreciated by most of us. In turn, this has physical repercussions that occur in the appearance of unwanted and often unpleasant symptoms that have frequently developed into clear-cut patterns.

One of the most common is discomfort or actual pain associated with menstruation. This symptom is technically referred to by the blanket term dysmenorrhoea. It is quite common, and affects many women in various age levels. But, for reasons not quite understood, in recent years there has been a gradual lessening of this complaint in the Western world. The experts are putting it down to the emancipation of women that has gradually been taking place over the past two decades or so. Medical journals are now talking less about dysmenorrhoea, and this is becoming increasingly evident.

Some claim that the emergence of woman as an equal to her male counterpart is having a marked psychological rebound. Via the higher cerebral centres, it seems, this is affecting hormonal production in some way so that the unpleasant symptom is being encountered less severely and less often in fewer women.

There is little doubt that the past few years have seen an amazing surge forward in equality, education and appreciation of all matters, but particularly in the sex-orientated one. This wider horizon is producing results that were not given much thought in days gone by. “Indeed, this may well be one of the fringe benefits of the emancipation of women and equal rights,” an eminent gynaecologist wrote recently in the British Medical Journal.