Progesterone is a steroidal hormone that plays a central role in the female reproductive cycle. The sex hormone is produced primarily by the adrenal glands, the placenta, and the corpus luteum of the ovary. In the absence of oocyte fertilization, progesterone levels decrease, and menstruation occurs. However, if the egg should happen to become fertilized, progesterone levels will increase to help maintain pregnancy and promote mammary gland development.
Naturally occurring progesterone aids glucose metabolism, and facilitates the formation of healthy bones. In additional, synthetic derivatives of this hormone are prescribed for birth control purposes, as well as to alleviate various difficulties associated with menopause. With hormone replacement therapy, progesterone (or progestins, as the synthetic forms are commonly called) helps reduce the risk of endometrial cancer inherent in estrogen therapy. However, blood clots, various cardiovascular disorders, and decreased high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels have also been conditions associated with progestin administration. Prescribing the hormone in lower doses has reportedly helped reduce such risks.
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