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At a Glance

Why Get Tested?

To help determine the cause of infertility, track ovulation, help diagnose an ectopic or failing pregnancy, monitor the health of a pregnancy, monitor progesterone replacement therapy, or help diagnose the cause of abnormal uterine bleeding

When To Get Tested?

At specific times during a woman’s menstrual cycle to determine whether/when she is ovulating (releasing an egg from an ovary); during early pregnancy when symptoms suggest an ectopic or failing pregnancy; throughout a high-risk pregnancy to help determine placenta and fetal health; periodically when a person is receiving progesterone replacement therapy; when a woman has abnormal uterine bleeding

Sample Required?

A blood sample drawn from a vein in your arm

Test Preparation Needed?

None, but for women, the date of your last menstrual period or trimester of pregnancy should be noted.

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You may be able to find your test results on your laboratory’s website or patient portal. However, you are currently at Testing.com. You may have been directed here by your lab’s website in order to provide you with background information about the test(s) you had performed. You will need to return to your lab’s website or portal, or contact your healthcare practitioner in order to obtain your test results.

Testing.com is an award-winning patient education website offering information on laboratory tests. The content on the site, which has been reviewed by laboratory scientists and other medical professionals, provides general explanations of what results might mean for each test listed on the site, such as what a high or low value might suggest to your healthcare practitioner about your health or medical condition.

The reference ranges for your tests can be found on your laboratory report. They are typically found to the right of your results.

If you do not have your lab report, consult your healthcare provider or the laboratory that performed the test(s) to obtain the reference range.

Laboratory test results are not meaningful by themselves. Their meaning comes from comparison to reference ranges. Reference ranges are the values expected for a healthy person. They are sometimes called “normal” values. By comparing your test results with reference values, you and your healthcare provider can see if any of your test results fall outside the range of expected values. Values that are outside expected ranges can provide clues to help identify possible conditions or diseases.

While accuracy of laboratory testing has significantly evolved over the past few decades, some lab-to-lab variability can occur due to differences in testing equipment, chemical reagents, and techniques. This is a reason why so few reference ranges are provided on this site. It is important to know that you must use the range supplied by the laboratory that performed your test to evaluate whether your results are “within normal limits.”

For more information, please read the article Reference Ranges and What They Mean.

What is being tested?

Progesterone is a steroid hormone whose main role is to help prepare a woman’s body for pregnancy. It works in conjunction with several other female hormones. This test measures the level of progesterone in the blood.

On a monthly basis, the hormone estrogen causes the lining of the uterus, the endometrium, to grow and replenish itself, while a surge in luteinizing hormone (LH) leads to the release of an egg from one of two ovaries (ovulation). A corpus luteum then forms in the ovary at the site where the egg was released and begins to produce progesterone. This progesterone, supplemented by small amounts produced by the adrenal glands, stops endometrial growth and readies the uterus for the possible implantation of a fertilized egg.

If fertilization does not occur, the corpus luteum degenerates, progesterone levels drop, and menstrual bleeding begins. If a fertilized egg is implanted in the uterus, the corpus luteum continues to produce progesterone, with the egg forming a trophoblast that produces human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). After several weeks, the placenta replaces the corpus luteum as the main source of progesterone, producing relatively large amounts of the hormone throughout the rest of a normal pregnancy.

Progesterone is also produced in males but at a much lower level. Its function involves the development of sperm.

Common Questions

How is the test used?

A progesterone test may be used:

  • To help recognize and manage some causes of infertility. Since progesterone levels vary throughout the menstrual cycle, multiple (serial) measurements can be used for this purpose.
  • To determine whether or not a woman has ovulated (released an egg from an ovary), when ovulation occurred, or to monitor the success of induced ovulation
  • In early pregnancy to help diagnose a failing pregnancy (miscarriage) or a pregnancy growing outside the uterus (ectopic), along with human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) testing
  • To monitor a high-risk pregnancy to help evaluate placenta and fetal health
  • If a woman is receiving progesterone injections to help support her early pregnancy, to help determine the effectiveness of the replacement treatment
  • Along with other tests such as follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), hCG, and a complete blood count (CBC), to help determine the cause of abnormal uterine bleeding in non-pregnant women

When is it ordered?

Progesterone levels may be measured:

  • During an infertility assessment, when a woman is having trouble getting pregnant and her healthcare practitioner wants to verify that she is ovulating normally; the test may be ordered a few times during a woman’s menstrual cycle to evaluate the change in progesterone concentrations.
  • When it is necessary to determine when ovulation has occurred and following drug therapy to induce ovulation
  • When symptoms, such as abdominal pain and spotting, suggest an ectopic pregnancy or threatened miscarriage
  • On a regular basis when a woman requires progesterone replacement therapy to help maintain her pregnancy
  • Periodically throughout a high-risk pregnancy to monitor placenta and fetal health
  • When a non-pregnant woman is experiencing abnormal uterine bleeding

What does the test result mean?

Interpretation of progesterone test results depends on the reason for testing and requires knowledge of the point at which a woman is in her menstrual cycle or pregnancy. Progesterone levels usually start to increase when an egg is released from the ovary, rise for several days, and then either continue to rise with early pregnancy or fall to initiate menstruation.

If progesterone levels do not rise and fall on a monthly basis, a woman may not be ovulating nor having regular menstrual periods. This may be a cause of infertility.

If levels do not rise normally during an early pregnancy, the pregnancy may be ectopic and/or may be failing. If serial measurements do not show increasing progesterone levels over time, there may be problems with the viability of the placenta and fetus.

Low levels of progesterone may be associated with:

  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Fetal death/miscarriage
  • Pre-eclampsia
  • Decreased function of ovaries
  • Lack of menstruation (amenorrhea)

Increased progesterone levels are seen occasionally with:

  • Some ovarian cysts
  • Non-viable pregnancies known as molar pregnancies
  • A rare form of ovarian cancer
  • Overproduction of progesterone by the adrenal glands
  • Adrenal cancer
  • Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH)

Is there anything else I should know?

Levels of progesterone will be naturally higher during pregnancies that involve multiples (twins, triplets, etc.) than those in which there is only one fetus.

Taking estrogen and progesterone supplements can affect results.

Are men tested for progesterone?

While men have small amounts of progesterone in their blood, progesterone is usually not tested in men, unless specific adrenal diseases are suspected. Progesterone does not have an established role in males.

Is progesterone used as treatment?

Yes. Progesterone (in the synthetic form progestin) is often used in hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for menopausal women who still have their uterus and is used in some contraceptive pills.

If I am menopausal and on hormone replacement therapy (HRT), is there ever a need to monitor my progesterone level?

Sometimes. If you still have your uterus and are having symptoms, such as unexplained uterine bleeding, your health care practitioner may order a progesterone test along with other tests and procedures. If you do not have a uterus (removed during a hysterectomy), your HRT will not include progesterone and it will not need to be checked.

View Sources

Sources Used in Current Review

Sit, A. et. al. (2017 May 10, Updated). Serum progesterone. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Available online at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003714.htm. Accessed on 07/07/18.

(2017 January 31, Updated). How is infertility diagnosed? National Institutes of Health Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Available online at https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/infertility/conditioninfo/diagnosed. Accessed on 07/07/18.

Bayrak-Toydemir, P. et. al. (2018 March, Updated). Infertility. ARUP Consult. Available online at https://arupconsult.com/content/infertility. Accessed on 07/07/18.

(© 1995–2018). Progesterone. Mayo Clinic Mayo Medical Laboratories. Available online at https://www.mayomedicallaboratories.com/test-catalog/Clinical+and+Interpretive/8141. Accessed on 07/07/18.

(2017 October). FAQ Evaluating Infertility. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Available online at https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Evaluating-Infertility. Accessed on 07/07/18.

(© 2018). What is Progesterone? Hormone Health Network. Available online at https://www.hormone.org/hormones-and-health/hormones/progesterone. Accessed on 07/07/18.

Pinkerton, J. (2017 September). Amenorrhea. Merck Manual Professional Version. Available online at https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gynecology-and-obstetrics/menstrual-abnormalities/amenorrhea. Accessed on 07/07/18.

Sources Used in Previous Reviews

Devkota, B. (Updated 2014 January 16) Progesterone. Medscape Reference [On-line information]. Available online at http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/2089378-overview. Accessed April 2014.

Puscheck, E. and Woodard, T. (Updated 2013 June 10). Infertility. Medscape Reference [On-line information]. Available online at [On-line information]. Available online at http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/274143-overview#showall. Accessed April 2014

Meikle, A. and Straseski, J. (Updated 2013 November). Infertility. ARUP Consult [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.arupconsult.com/Topics/Infertility.html?client_ID=LTD#tabs=0. Accessed April 2014

Vorvick, L. (Updated 2013 February 8). Infertility. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001191.htm. Accessed April 2014

Vorvick, L. (Updated 2011 June 2). Serum progesterone. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003714.htm. Accessed April 2014

(© 1995–2014). Progesterone, Serum. Mayo Clinic Mayo Medical Laboratories [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.mayomedicallaboratories.com/test-catalog/Overview/8141. Accessed April 2014

Pagana, K. D. & Pagana, T. J. (© 2011). Mosby’s Diagnostic and Laboratory Test Reference 10th Edition: Mosby, Inc., Saint Louis, MO. Pp 786-787.

Clarke, W., Editor (© 2011). Contemporary Practice in Clinical Chemistry 2nd Edition: AACC Press, Washington, DC. Pp 476-477.

Thomas, Clayton L., Editor (1997). Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary. F.A. Davis Company, Philadelphia, PA [18th Edition].

Pagana, Kathleen D. & Pagana, Timothy J. (2001). Mosby’s Diagnostic and Laboratory Test Reference 5th Edition: Mosby, Inc., Saint Louis, MO.

Oriel, K. and Schrager, S. (1999 October 1). Abnormal Uterine Bleeding. American Family Physician [On-line journal]. Available online at http://www.aafp.org/afp/991001ap/1371.html.

Chen, P. Updated (2001 August 10, Updated). Serum progesterone. MedlinePlus Health Information [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003714.htm.

Tenore, J. (2000 February 15). Ectopic Pregnancy. American Family Physician [On-line journal]. Available online at http://www.aafp.org/afp/20000215/1080.html.

NHLBI (2002). The Women’s Health Initiative. New Facts About: Estrogen/Progestin Hormone Therapy. National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/whi/hrtupd/ep_facts.htm.

ARUP. Progesterone. ARUP’s Guide to Clinical Laboratory Testing (CLT) [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.aruplab.com/guides/clt/tests/clt_148b.htm.

Spengler, R. (2000 October 30, updated). Progesterone. WebMD [on-line information]. Available online at http://my.webmd.com/encyclopedia/article/1689.52570.

NCI (2002 July 16). Questions and Answers: Use of Hormones After Menopause. National Cancer Institute, News from the NCI [On-line press release]. Available online at http://newscenter.cancer.gov/pressreleases/estrogenplus.html.

Merck. Hormones and Reproduction. The Merck Manual of Medical Information – Home Edition [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.merck.com/pubs/mmanual_home/sec22/232.htm.

Pagana, K. D. & Pagana, T. J. (© 2007). Mosby’s Diagnostic and Laboratory Test Reference 8th Edition: Mosby, Inc., Saint Louis, MO. Pp 763-764.

Clarke, W. and Dufour, D. R., Editors (© 2006). Contemporary Practice in Clinical Chemistry: AACC Press, Washington, DC. Pp 359-360.

Wu, A. (© 2006). Tietz Clinical Guide to Laboratory Tests, 4th Edition: Saunders Elsevier, St. Louis, MO. Pp 894-897.

Vorvick, L. and Storck, S. (Updated 2009 April 12). Serum progesterone. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003714.htm. Accessed November 2009.

(© 2003). American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Age and Fertility, A Guide for Patients [On-line information]. PDF available for download at http://www.asrm.org/Patients/patientbooklets/agefertility.pdf. Accessed November 2009.

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