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Progesterones: Uses, common brands, and safety information

Progesterones are used in hormone replacement therapy (HRT), birth control drugs, and other medications

Progesterones list | What are progesterones? | How they work | Uses | Who can take progesterones? | Safety | Side effects | Costs

Progesterones are a class of drugs used for various conditions, including hormone replacement therapy, contraception, infertility treatment, and reintroduction of missed periods. Progesterone medications are often prescribed by OB/GYN’s, who specialize in women’s health/reproductive health.

This article will discuss progesterones—what they are used for, side effects, and warnings. To understand more fully how they work check out our ovulation guide.

Here is a list of progesterone products approved by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration): 

List of progesterones
Brand Name (generic name) Average cash price SingleCare savings Learn more
Aygestin (norethindrone) $79 for 30, 5 mg tablets Get Aygestin coupons Aygestin details
Crinone (progesterone) vaginal gel $1,184 for 1 tube of 4% vaginal gel Get Crinone coupons Crinone details
Depo-Provera (medroxyprogesterone acetate) $136 for 1 prefilled syringe Get Depo-Provera coupons Depo-Provera details
Makena (hydroxyprogesterone injection) $5977 per 1 vial Get Makena coupons Makena details
Megace (megestrol) $163 for 8 ounces Get megestrol coupons Megestrol details
Micronor* (or Ortho Micronor) (norethindrone) oral contraceptive $62 for 1 pack of 28 tablets Get Micronor coupons Micronor details
Plan B One-Step, Take Action, My Choice (levonorgestrel) emergency contraception $47 for 1 tablet Get Plan B One-Step coupons Plan B One-Step details
Prometrium (progesterone) $137 for 30, 200 mg capsules Get Prometrium coupons Prometrium details
Provera (medroxyprogesterone) $19 for 10, 10 mg tablets Get Provera coupons Provera details

*Micronor (norethindrone) oral contraceptive is also available under the following branded generic names:

  • Camila (norethindrone)
  • Deblitane (norethindrone)
  • Errin (norethindrone)
  • Heather (norethindrone)
  • Incassia (norethindrone)
  • Jencycla (norethindrone)
  • Jolivette (norethindrone)
  • Lyleq (norethindrone)
  • Lyza (norethindrone)
  • Nora-Be (norethindrone)
  • Norlyda (norethindrone)
  • Norlyroc (norethindrone)
  • Nor-QD (norethindrone)
  • Sharobel (norethindrone)
  • Tulana (norethindrone)
  • Skyla (levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system IUD)

Other progesterones:

  • Ella (ulipristal) emergency contraception
  • Endometrin (progesterone) vaginal insert
  • Slynd (drospirenone) oral contraceptive
  • Kyleena (levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system IUD)
  • Nexplanon (etonogestrel) contraceptive implant
  • Liletta (levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system IUD)
  • Mirena (levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system IUD)

What are progesterones?

The two main sex hormones in women are estrogen and progesterone. Progesterone is a steroid hormone that is involved with fertility and the menstrual cycle. Progesterones are in a class of hormones called progestogens. After ovulation, during the second half of the menstrual cycle, the female body makes a temporary hormone gland called the corpus luteum. The corpus luteum makes progesterone. 

Progestins are synthetic hormones that act like progesterones. Progestin may be used alone or in combination with estrogen. Progestins are used as contraceptives to prevent pregnancy. They also can be used as hormone replacement therapy to treat menopausal symptoms in postmenopausal women. There are many other uses for progesterone, too (see below).

Hormone replacement therapy may include estrogen alone, or estrogen and progesterone. 

In women who have a uterus, hormone therapy includes estrogen and progesterone, because estrogen alone increases the risk for endometrial cancer in women with a uterus. 

Women who have had a hysterectomy (do not have a uterus) do not need to take progesterone with estrogen, and can use estrogen-only products.

How do progesterones work?

Progesterone can work as part of hormone replacement therapy, to treat symptoms of menopause. It is used along with estrogen in women who have had menopause and have not had a hysterectomy. Estrogen alone can cause an increased risk of uterine cancer, so adding progesterone to hormone replacement therapy lowers the risk of uterine cancer.  

Progesterone may also be used in women of childbearing age who have had normal periods, and stopped menstruating. It is used to help bring periods back, as a replacement for the natural progesterone that some women are missing.

Women who have low progesterone levels and infertility may need to take progesterone to help support a pregnancy. 

When used as contraception, progesterone-only pills work by thickening the cervical mucus (making it harder for sperm to reach an egg) and causing changes in the uterus to prevent an egg from implantation if fertilization does occur. They may or may not suppress ovulation.

What are progesterones used for?

Depending on the specific formulation, progesterones have various indications. Below is a list of some of the indications for which progesterones may be used:

  • Hormone replacement therapy (with estrogen)
  • Birth control/pregnancy prevention (with or without estrogen)
  • Infertility treatment
  • Abnormal uterine bleeding
  • Amenorrhea (absence of periods)
  • Endometriosis
  • Endometrial hyperplasia 
  • Breast cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Uterine cancer
  • AIDS-related appetite loss/weight loss
  • Cancer-related appetite loss/weight loss
  • Diagnostic aid to see if estrogen is present

Who can take progesterones?

Can men take progesterones?

Most progesterones are not approved for use in men. However, megestrol is a progesterone medication used in women or men for AIDS-related weight loss, appetite loss, or wasting.

Can women take progesterones?

Yes. Progesterones are for use in women for a variety of indications, as long as they do not fall into one of the restricted categories below. Progesterones are often used as hormone replacement therapy, birth control, or to bring back missed periods. They should not be used in women who are pregnant. If you are breastfeeding, consult your healthcare provider for medical advice. 

Can children take progesterones?

No—progesterones are not approved for use in children

Can seniors take progesterones?

Older adult females can take progesterones as part of hormone replacement therapy, or for other approved indications, as long as they do not fall into one of the restricted categories listed below.

Are progesterones safe?

Progesterones recalls

Progesterones alone have not been recalled. There have been several recalls of combination medications containing estrogen and progesterone.

Progesterones restrictions

When a progesterone is combined with an estrogen, there is a boxed warning, which is the strongest warning required by the FDA. 

  • Estrogen plus progestin should not be used to prevent heart disease or dementia. The Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study found higher risks of DVT (deep vein thrombosis), PE (pulmonary embolism), stroke, and MI (myocardial infarction) in postmenopausal women who took estrogen plus progestin. The study also found an increased risk of dementia in postmenopausal women who took estrogen with progestin. 
  • The WHI study also found an increased risk of invasive breast cancer with estrogen plus progestin. 

Therefore, the black box warning states, “Progestins with estrogens should be prescribed at the lowest effective doses and for the shortest duration consistent with treatment goals and risks for the individual woman.” Talk with your healthcare provider about the risks vs benefits of various types of hormone replacement therapy. 

Progesterones are contraindicated in people with/who are:

  • Hypersensitivity to progesterones
  • Hypersensitivity to peanuts (certain progesterone products)
  • Undiagnosed vaginal bleeding
  • Smokers
  • Breast cancer or a history of breast cancer
  • Progesterone-dependent cancer
  • Venous thromboembolism or history of venous thromboembolism
  • Arterial thromboembolism within the past year
  • Liver disease/impairment
  • Pregnancy 
  • Missed abortion 

Progesterones should be used with caution in people who have/are:

  • Older adults
  • Kidney disease
  • Heart disease 
  • Cerebrovascular disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Hypothyroidism 
  • High cholesterol
  • Asthma
  • Seizure disorder
  • Migraine 
  • History of depression 
  • Lupus 
  • Obesity 
  • Family history of venous thromboembolism
  • Surgery or prolonged immobilization
  • Sensitive to fluid retention

Can you take progesterones while pregnant or breastfeeding?

If you are taking a progesterone medication (birth control) to prevent pregnancy, and you get pregnant or want to become pregnant, you should stop taking the medication. 

However, if you are taking progesterone as part of fertility treatment or to prevent miscarriage, consult your healthcare professional for advice on when to stop taking the medication. 

After giving birth, under your doctor’s care, you can use progesterone-only birth control (such as Depo-Provera, an implant, IUD, or mini-pill) right away. You should not use birth control that contains estrogen for at least three weeks after giving birth.

Progesterone medications can enter breast milk in small amounts. Consult your healthcare provider for guidance on progesterone and lactation.

Are progesterones controlled substances?

No, progesterones are not controlled substances.

Common progesterones side effects

Progesterones have some common side effects. Before using a progesterone medication, talk to your healthcare professional about what kind of side effects to expect, and what to do if they occur. Side effects depend on the particular progesterone product. If side effects persist or are bothersome, contact your doctor. Some common side effects of progesterones include:

  • Headache 
  • Breast pain or breast tenderness 
  • Stomach problems like abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Dizziness 
  • Muscle or bone pain 
  • Viral infection 
  • Vaginal discharge 
  • Anxiety, irritability, depression
  • Fatigue 
  • Cough 
  • Chest pain 
  • Acne 
  • Fluid retention
  • Excess hair growth 
  • Weight gain
  • Menstrual irregularities

Progesterones can also cause serious side effects. Serious side effects can include:

  • Thrombosis (blood clots)
  • Retinal thrombosis (blockage of the retina of the eye) or retinal lesions
  • Optic neuritis (inflammation of the optic nerve of the eye)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Stroke 
  • Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
  • Breast or ovarian cancer 
  • Liver tumor or other liver problems
  • Depression 
  • Dementia 
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Ectopic pregnancy 

If you have symptoms of a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) such as hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the face, lips, or tongue, seek emergency medical attention right away.

This is not a full list of side effects, and other side effects may occur. Consult your healthcare provider for a full list of side effects. 

How much do progesterones cost?

The price of progesterones varies widely. The price can depend on a number of factors such as the formulation, strength, and quantity, as well as insurance coverage. You can ask your doctor to prescribe you a progesterone that is available in generic, if that is possible for your condition. For example, many “mini-pills,” or progestin-only birth control pills, are available in generic form. You can also use our free SingleCare card or coupons. Our customers can save up to 80% on their prescriptions and refills. Ask your pharmacist to compare prices between your insurance and SingleCare card.