When I had six years sober, my husband and I decided to get pregnant. I quit the birth control pill and entered the darkest depression of my life.
I wasn’t surprised when the test results came back. After three chemical pregnancies and one miscarriage, it was clear that I was having trouble getting pregnant. But what I didn’t expect was that my fertility troubles might be related to my past struggles with addiction. And what was that common ground? A lack of progesterone.
For years, I had struggled with depression. Though I never charted the highs and lows of my mental health to determine whether it was hormonal, after my OB/GYN explained to me that low progesterone levels could not only cause difficulty in the implantation process, but also depression, I felt like the detective at the end of Usual Suspects, Kaiser Soze. That’s what’s wrong with me.
Progesterone is one of the hormones that stimulates and regulates various functions, playing a key role in preparing the body for conception and pregnancy while regulating the monthly menstrual cycle in order to maintain pregnancy.
But progesterone receptors have also been discovered in the blood vessels, the liver, breast tissue, the bone, and the brain, and have an important influence in the functioning of all those parts of the body. In fact, progesterone plays a key role in regulating dopamine by suppressing prolactin and estrogen, and helps to increase the “dopamine neuron number of embryonic stem cells.” Whatever that means.
When progesterone levels dip, however, this leads to an imbalance between progesterone and estrogen, with estrogen becoming the dominant hormone in a women’s system. Low progesterone can cause weight gain, bloating, changes in appetite, muscle and joint pain, sleeplessness, irritability, anxiety and depression. But researchers have discovered that when people struggling with addiction are given progesterone, they have higher rates of abstinence; the hormone plays a therapeutic role in curtailing smoking and cocaine use in women with drug use disorders…
Learn more about how we need a better understanding of the role progesterone plays in addiction from both a treatment and a prevention standpoint in the full article Progesterone Problem: Are Hormones Responsible for Your Addiction? at The Fix.