Progesterone and Diabetes

A correlation between progesterone and diabetes may exist when pregnant women develop gestational diabetes. Research with hormonal changes occurring during pregnancy and the likelihood of some women to suffer from gestational diabetes is pointing the existence of high progesterone levels in pregnancies causing abnormal amounts of blood glucose to accumulate.

Additionally, menopausal women experiencing hormonal reductions involving estrogen and progesterone may also be at risk for acquiring diabetes as well, mainly because progesterone protects coronary heart disease and hypertension.

What is Progesterone?

Progesterone and DiabetesProgesterone is a hormone produced and released by the ovaries, adrenal glands and in placental material during pregnancy. It is also kept in reserve in adipose tissue, which partially explains why women who are anorexic or severely underweight have difficulty getting pregnant.

Some of the functions performed by progesterone within a woman’s body include:

  • Assists in preparing the uterus for implantation of a fertilized egg
  • Promotes development and health of embryos and fetuses
  • Acts as a precursor to testosterone
  • Reduces the risk of heart disease in older women
  • Regulates optimal response of the immune system
  • Behaves like an anti-inflammatory agent
  • Enhances vascular health and blood clotting

When an egg is successfully fertilized, progesterone production increases to almost 400 milligrams each day during the last three or four months of a woman’s pregnancy. Researchers think this substantial rise in progesterone levels may play a role in the emergence of gestational diabetes in some women who may harbor at-risk conditions prior to becoming pregnant. However, other hormones such as estrogen, prolactin, placental lactogen and especially cortisol may also exacerbate the development of GD not specifically mediated by progesterone and diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes

Women never diagnosed with diabetes who develop high blood sugar when pregnant are affected by gestational diabetes. About 15 percent of all pregnancies result in GD. Most women, however, do not continue suffering from diabetes once the pregnancy is over.

Doctors are not entirely sure what provokes gestational diabetes, but they suspect it involves placental hormones and that fact that these hormones inhibit insulin action important in allowing cells to absorb blood glucose for energy. Because progesterone primarily enhances placental health, the association between progesterone and diabetes is more than just assumptive.

Gestational DiabetesWomen at risk for developing gestational diabetes are those who:

  • Are over 25 years old
  • Have relatives suffering from diabetes
  • Have given birth to large babies or to infants with birth defects
  • Are obese, have high blood pressure or high cholesterol
  • Have experienced stillbirth or miscarriage


Symptoms of gestational diabetes include;

  • Frequent bladder, skin or vaginal infections resulting from impaired immune system functioning
  • Increased fatigue, thirst, nausea and urination
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Blurry vision

When doctors suspect a progesterone and diabetes condition is creating an insulin-resistant problem in a pregnant woman, they will immediately implement a program of diabetes-friendly foods and appropriate exercise for the woman. Generally, an oral glucose tolerance test is given to pregnant women sometime between the 24th and 28th week. Obstetricians who think a woman may be at risk for developing gestational diabetes will give this glucose test even earlier in the pregnancy.

Menopause and Diabetes

Diabetic women approaching menopause will need to deal with additional problems due to fluctuations in progesterone, estrogen and other hormones exacerbating diabetes symptoms. Women suffering from moderate to severe medical issues resulting from menopause may choose hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to alleviate the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis and increasingly serious, diabetic problems.

Knowing that progesterone and diabetes are correlated with each other’s development assists doctors in treating patients who are suffering lack of or excess of levels of progesterone. Doctors can now administer appropriate medications and/or hormone replacement therapy for women with abnormal blood progesterone levels that cause insulin-resistant conditions within the body.


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