Progestins such as drospirenone, levonorgestrel, or medroxyprogesterone are not progesterone.
That’s because progesterone is not a generic term like estrogen. Instead, progesterone refers only to the hormone made by the corpus luteum or taken as oral micronized progesterone.
Consider the structural difference between progesterone and the progestin drug levonorgestrel, which is used in many oral contraceptives, implants, Mirena IUD, and the morning-after pill.
Can you spot the difference?
Levonorgestrel is actually more similar to testosterone than it is to progesterone, which is why it can cause hair loss and weight gain.
Progesterone versus progestins
|beneficial for cardiovascular health||can cause high blood pressure|
|stimulates hair growth||can cause hair loss|
|has anti-androgen properties||can be androgenic, or “testosterone-like”|
|generally good for mood and sleep||can cause anxiety and depression|
|may help to prevent breast cancer||increase the risk of breast cancer|
Still confused about progesterone versus progestin? Think of this way: Progestin and progesterone have the same beneficial thinning effect on the uterine lining but almost opposite effects in every other part of the body including the breasts and brain. That’s why progesterone is safer than a progestin and also has fewer side effects for mood and hair.
How to make or take progesterone
There’s no progesterone in hormonal birth control.
The only way to get real, natural progesterone is to:
- Make it yourself. Read Roadmap to progesterone and Period Repair Manual.
- Take oral micronized progesterone (natural progesterone). Bioidentical progesterone is actual progesterone (like the molecule above)—not levonorgestrel or another progestin. Micronized progesterone is available as natural progesterone cream, compounded progesterone, Prometrium, Utrogestan, Famenita, or Teva generic progesterone capsules. Check your label and consult the chart in my bioidentical hormone therapy post.