Progesterone vs Progestin

You may have heard the terms used interchangeably and wondered if there is a difference between the two. Yes, there is! Although these terms are often used interchangeably, they are not synonymous.

While they can be prescribed for the same reason they are in fact very different from each other.

In Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), the main purpose of taking progesterone or progestin along with estrogen is to protect against the affects of unopposed estrogen. Unopposed estrogen can cause  endometrial cancer and has a tendency to stimulate the growth of the ovary lining, which may contribute to an increased risk of cancer.

But often when a Dr. references progesterone, they may not distinguish between progesterone and progestin and in fact prescribe progestin.

What Is The Difference?

Progesterone is a naturally occurring steroid hormone  and, in the case of bio identical hormones, has a DNA structure that is identical to what the body is used to receiving. Progestin is a synthetic chemical that mimics the effects of progesterone on the body.

Progesterone is the hormone produced by your body to balance estrogen.  

As we age, it is the first sex hormone to decline, beginning its downward journey when women are in their mid to late 30s.  Progesterone is the hormone that prepares for and maintains a pregnancy and high levels of progesterone will stop further ovulation.  When levels drop during the monthly cycle, it prompts menstruation.

Progesterone has all sorts of benefits for the female body.  It keeps the menstrual cycle regular and maintains bone density.  It increases the production of GABA, a naturally occurring amino acid that regulates nervous activity in the brain, resulting in more stable moods and better sleep.  

Research also suggests that it makes your brain feel sharper, reduces muscular aches and pains, maintains good cholesterol, gives you glowing skin and can even improve your libido.  Irregular menstrual cycles, irregular bleeding, migraines, mood swings and even miscarriage can all be caused by low levels of progesterone.

As progesterone balances estrogen, its decline can lead to estrogen dominance, where hard-to-shift stomach fat, sleep disturbance and low mood may all be present.  At this point, supplementation with progesterone may help.  This helps with the management of symptoms and also protects the endometrium. Hormones such as estrogen, testosterone, DHEA, or melatonin are often used in combination with progesterone.

Progesterone is a natural substance in the body, however, the bio-identical progesterone used in medications is sourced from natural ingredients, such as wild yams and then synthesized in a laboratory to make it fully bio-identical.

Progestin is the synthesized version of progesterone.

Researchers developing the first HRT medications noticed the important work of progesterone.  As developing a new medication is an expensive process (think millions), they didn’t want to work with a molecule that was created by nature.  Natural molecules cannot be patented and therefore do not give a good return on investment.  

The scientists decided to slightly change the progesterone molecule so that it could fulfill part of the role of natural (bio-identical) progesterone. Synthetic progestin was the result and it was designed to bind to progesterone receptors in the body and create similar effects as progesterone.

But, because of the structural differences, some complications can occur when using progestin over progesterone and can result in incongruent biological messages. Long-term studies are showing that progestin cannot sufficiently create the balance needed with estrogen, and can sometimes even contribute to the imbalance.

And while progestin and progesterone may have the same beneficial thinning effect on the uterine lining they almost opposite effects in every other part of the body including the breasts and brain. In general, real progesterone has the advantage of being safer for breasts and usually better for mood.

You can make informed choices when you are fully informed about risks and benefits.  If you don’t want to take a synthetic progestin, there are alternatives. Here at Solutions IV Vitamin Bar and Hormone Restoration, we offer many types of bio identical HRT, including progesterone. 

If you would like to discuss HRT and its potential benefits for you, please call our office to schedule a consultation today.


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