Progesterone Test

Progesterone is a hormone, which plays an important role in preparing the body for pregnancy; it works alongside several other hormones.

The menstrual cycle involves the release of an egg from the ovaries; prior to this, the lining of the womb (known as the endometrium) starts to grow. The release of the egg is triggered by a sharp increase in luteinising hormone (LH). The corpus luteum then starts to develop in the space left by the egg and starts to produce progesterone; progesterone halts the growth of the endometrium and prepares the uterus for the fertilised egg. If the egg is not fertilised, the corpus luteum disintegrates and the levels of progesterone decrease.

When is the test used?

The test is used primarily to investigate the cause of infertility but it may also be used to test for ectopic or failing pregnancies; the test will usually be ordered if the patient has symptoms such as severe abdominal pain, spotting or heavy bleeding, which may suggest an ectopic pregnancy.

Progesterone levels may be checked on a regular basis throughout a pregnancy if the patient is at high risk of miscarrying.

The test is usually ordered when a female patient is having trouble conceiving; the test allows doctors to check that the patient is ovulating normally. The test may also be repeated to monitor a patient’s condition if they have started a course of progesterone injections.

How is the test done?

The test is done by collecting and analysing a sample of the patient’s blood. A needle is inserted into a vein and the blood is drawn out and collected in a syringe. Once the sample has been taken, it will be bottled, labelled and sent to the laboratory for testing.

What do the test results show?

The results of the test must be considered in the context of the patient’s menstrual cycle, as levels vary according to the stage of the cycle.

If the levels of progesterone do not rise and fall throughout the cycle, this may indicate that the patient is not ovulating normally. If levels do not rise during the early stage of the pregnancy, this may indicate that the pregnancy is failing; it may also indicate an ectopic pregnancy.

Sometimes, progesterone levels may be higher than normal; this may indicate that the patient has a rare form of ovarian cancer, a luteal ovarian cyst or a molar pregnancy.

Levels of progesterone are higher during pregnancy and will be higher than normal if the patient is expecting twins or triplets.

Specific Blood Tests

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