Vaginal Progesterone Suppositories: What They Do and Who They’re for

by Aug 4, 2021

The infamous pregnancy hormone known as progesterone is a hormone that is vital to the reproductive process. And while our bodies are capable of producing progesterone naturally, there are certain situations where taking a progesterone supplement in the form of a vaginal suppository can be helpful.

If progesterone suppositories are new to you, here’s everything you need to know about the role of progesterone in pregnancy, the purpose of vaginal progesterone suppositories, and best practices for using them in your fertility journey.

The role of progesterone in pregnancy

Progesterone is a type of sex hormone that is naturally produced in both men and women. For women, this particular hormone plays a critical role during the second half of the menstrual cycle (the luteal phase) and in the early weeks of pregnancy.

Initially, progesterone is secreted in the ovaries by a corpus luteum that forms after ovulation, and its primary function is to help prepare the uterus for pregnancy. It does this by thickening the uterine lining (endometrium) and preventing muscle contractions in the uterus.

In the event that conception occurs, progesterone will continue to be produced in the ovaries; further supporting the uterus and endometrium. As the pregnancy develops, progesterone will also be secreted by the emerging placenta. This typically begins after 8 to 12 weeks of pregnancy.

In cases where pregnancy does not occur, the corpus luteum will break down, progesterone levels drop, and menstruation begins.

Where do progesterone suppositories fit in?

What are progesterone suppositories?

Progesterone suppositories are a type of vaginal suppository typically containing between 50-400 mg of progesterone. Once inserted into the vagina, the suppository slowly releases progesterone into the body where it can be absorbed into the bloodstream.

Who are progesterone suppositories for?

Progesterone suppositories can be used for a number of different medical purposes that support implantation and pregnancy. This includes unexplained infertility, the prevention of preterm delivery, and the prevention of early miscarriage in some women. It is also commonly prescribed for women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Recent research found progesterone to improve the live birth rate in women experiencing recurrent miscarriages by as much as 15%. Other medical professionals believe that progesterone treatments may help to decrease the chances of having a preterm birth by 35% in women who have had a previous preterm delivery.

If you are struggling to become pregnant, undergoing frequent miscarriages, or looking to prevent another preterm delivery, it might be worth speaking with your doctor about how progesterone suppositories could fit into your current treatment plan.

How do vaginal progesterone suppositories work?

In order to work the most effectively, vaginal progesterone suppositories should be inserted as high as possible into the vagina.  The work by slowly releasing progesterone into the body via the vagina. After insertion, it is also recommended to lay in bed for 10-15 minutes as this helps to ensure that the suppository has plenty of time to be properly absorbed into the body.

When should you take them?

Like other progesterone treatments, progesterone suppositories should only be taken at the direction of your doctor. Therefore, timing and dosage will vary depending on the individual.

A typical schedule is twice per day; once in the morning (i.e. after waking up) and once in the evening (i.e. right before bed). To get the best results, it’s important to try to take each dose at the same time each day. If you do become pregnant while taking progesterone suppositories, your doctor will be able to advise further on how to best proceed with your progesterone treatment in the early stages of pregnancy.

How long do they take to work?

Once inserted into the vagina, progesterone suppositories can take up to 30 minutes to melt and dissolve into your system.

Those requiring progesterone to support implantation may be advised to take a suppository twice daily for up to 12 days in the second half of the menstrual cycle. Others undergoing IVF or other long-term fertility treatment plans however may be advised to take progesterone for a longer period of time.

While progesterone can be taken up to 37 weeks into pregnancy, it is most commonly prescribed to be taken up to 12 weeks.

Are there any risks or side effects?

In general, progesterone suppositories are harmless and do not cause any potentially harmful side effects to you, your baby, or your partner.

For women taking progesterone suppositories, some of the most common side effects include:

  • Vaginal irritation, itching, and burning
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Yeast infection
  • Headaches, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

Other rare side effects that require medical attention include:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Painful urination
  • Changes in mood or sleep patterns
  • Severe headache or problems with vision
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Signs of stroke or a blood clot

Remember, progesterone should be taken under the care and advice of your doctor, midwife, or pharmacist. If you experience any serious or concerning side effects after taking a dose, consult with a medical professional immediately.

FAQs about vaginal progesterone

Can you have sex with progesterone suppositories?

Having sex while undergoing a treatment of progesterone suppositories is perfectly fine! However, you may want to be strategic with your timing. Progesterone suppositories can be messy and may cause some discharge after insertion.

If you do plan to have sex in the morning or evening, try to wait until afterward to insert your progesterone suppository. Alternatively, you can also wait half an hour to an hour after inserting the suppository to have sex. This should give it plenty of time to melt and absorb into your system.

It’s important to note here that progesterone suppositories are completely harmless and should not negatively impact your sex life.

Will progesterone suppositories affect my partner?

No – progesterone suppositories will not have any sort of negative impact on your partner. Once the suppository is inserted, you can still have sex at no risk to you or your partner. However, due to the fact that you may have extra discharge than usual after insertion, you may want to plan intercourse accordingly.

Will the progesterone cause any discharge?

Yes – progesterone can cause you to have more discharge than what you are used to. This is perfectly normal and it may have a white-ish color to it.

Discharge is most likely to be the heaviest right after insertion. Women experiencing particularly heavy discharge may find it more comfortable to wear a light pad. If you feel as if your discharge is unnecessarily or unbearably heavy, you may want to speak with your doctor and they can offer further advice. Possible solutions could be to adjust your dosage, switch the type or brand of progesterone that you are taking, and double-check that you are inserting the suppository correctly.

✔️ Medically Reviewed by Katerina Shkodzik, M.D., OB-GYN

Dr. Katerina Shkodzik is a certified OB-GYN with a special focus on reproductive endocrinology and infertility issues. She has been practising since 2015.

Dr. Shkodzik completed her residency program in the Department of OB/GYN at the Belarusian State Medical University and fellowship program in the Department of Gynecological Surgery at the Medical University of Bialystok, Poland.

Dr. Shkodzik is extensively involved in digital health projects providing her medical expertise and integrating of cutting edge technologies in medical science and clinical practice since 2018.

Dr. Shkodzik has participated in several studies focused on PCOS, endometriosis, menstrual cycle characteristics and their abnormalities based on big data of digital health in collaboration with leading universities.

She believes that paying special attention to women's health is a crucial step to improving the world we live in.

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