What it was like dealing with progesterone deficiency

I’ve been hearing quite a few friends talk about low progesterone issues in the beginning of their pregnancies, which is what I had with both of our kids. It’s been nearly two years since my last round with it, but I had so many notes from my doctor’s appointments that I wanted to document them somewhere. Click here to jump to the weekly breakdown.

Finding out we were pregnant the first time

Weeks 4 to 6 will always stand out most vividly in my mind with both pregnancies. You read all these stories about people getting BFPs (big fat positives) a few days before or the day of their missed period. For us, we saw a very faint positive that slowly grew darker over the course of week 4. In our first pregnancy, it was two days before we hit the 5-week mark when we got the clearest result, a lovely digital “Pregnant” reading. We scheduled our confirmation appointment for the 6-week start and could hardly contain our giddiness.

Cramping and spotting

Week 5, day 3 is when I started to get some painful cramping and then I saw the spotting. Anyone who has been through a miscarriage knows the giant pit that forms in your stomach at realizing you might be losing the baby. And then the sudden, overwhelming fear. We didn’t know for sure if this was going to be a miscarriage, but I certainly cried my eyes out not knowing if it would be okay.

We called the OB first thing in the morning and they had us come in for a sonogram and a blood test. The gestational sac was there, but no fetal pole. The doctor told us that one of two things could have occurred: we could be pregnant, but the fetal pole was too small to detect. Or the baby had stopped developing so we couldn’t see it. They sent the blood test in for review and scheduled us to come back that following Monday for another blood test to check if my hormones were still rising (As she put it, “Your hormone levels should double every 2-3 days.”) If not, it could be a sign of a miscarriage. Later that afternoon, they called with the initial results that my progesterone levels were low.

I spent most of the weekend scared what the news would be, so much so that I felt more than my usual morning sickness on the way in to the OB’s office. They did the second blood test and sent the results. Luckily the results came back later that day and we found out that my hormone levels were still rising. With that, they had me start a progesterone supplement that night and I went in for my regularly scheduled 6-week appointment two days later. There he appeared on the sonogram: our little fetal pole.

With baby number two

I remember feeling all of the pregnancy symptoms early after the first time around: both with a miscarriage and with our second full term pregnancy. The first thing that hit me each time was feeling overly emotional, then the mild, persistent nausea, followed by my heightened sense of smell. Not sure if it was muscle memory, so it hit quicker, or that I was more mindful of what I was feeling.

Starting progesterone supplements

There are several ways that you could be prescribed progesterone supplements, depending on what your body needs. For the first pregnancy, I had to take one higher dose once a night and the second time it was two lower doses throughout the night. It just so happened that we were traveling during the first twelve weeks of both pregnancies so we had to accommodate for that — in the first, we were staying with friends and in the second we were on a cross-country road trip. I finished up the supplements at twelve weeks both times, after a sonogram confirmed the baby was doing well.

Here was the log I kept of symptoms and how my progesterone treatments in both the first and now second pregnancies went…

Beginning of week 3:

  • 1st pregnancy: Nothing yet.
  • 2nd pregnancy: First symptoms hit, including crying uncontrollably over a rando song and persistent mild nausea (“This isn’t nearly as bad as I remember!”, I remember saying though that bit me in the butt later.)

Mid-week 3:

  • 1st pregnancy: Nothing yet.
  • 2nd pregnancy: Very faint line on pregnancy test. Really, it was too early for us to test yet, but I was excited. Line gets slightly darker each morning. Mild cramping and predator-level senses of smell and hearing start setting in (Not fun!)

Beginning of week 4:

  • 1st pregnancy: Very faint line on pregnancy test. Start to feel a little nauseous.
  • 2nd pregnancy: A noticeable line on three different brands of tests. Feels like a truck backed over my stomach multiple times (“Ok, maybe it is just as bad as the first time…”)

Mid-week 4:

  • 1st pregnancy: Received our first clear positive reading.
  • 2nd pregnancy: Solid line on pregnancy tests and the dogs keep following me around trying (hubby: “I bet they can smell the hormones.”) Also developing eczema on my hands (I’ve always had it, just gets worse with pregnancy), can’t keep my eyes open (our first born probably also has something to do with that), and my tailbone keeps feeling sore (to be fair, I had a desk job.)

Beginning of week 5:

  • 1st pregnancy: Starting to feel more nausea, hubby says I have a glow.
  • 2nd pregnancy: I just walk by pregnancy tests and I feel like they glow pink. Oh, and blemishes on my face.

Mid-week 5:

  • 1st pregnancy: Abdominal cramping starts to hit, notice spotting.¬†First blood test, no fetal pole on sonogram yet.¬†Second blood test shows low progesterone but rising hormones overall. Start progesterone supplements.
  • 2nd pregnancy: All I want to do is sleeeeeep. Because I had low progesterone before, they did an early first blood test again, though no fetal pole on sonogram yet.

Beginning of week 6:

  • 1st pregnancy: Second sonogram where fetal pole is present. Baby is the size of a blueberry.
  • 2nd pregnancy: First sonogram with blood test. Fetal pole is present, but progesterone is low. Since they saw the fetal pole, no follow up blood test. Heartbeat was slow but baby was only measuring 5 weeks and 5 days, so doctors weren’t concerned. Started progesterone supplements – 2 doses a night.

The next few appointments were more spaced out.

Beginning of week 8:

  • 1st pregnancy: Third sonogram. Progesterone levels doing well with supplements. Baby is nearly the size of a grape.
  • 2nd pregnancy: Due to us being out of town, follow up scheduled for later on. Super vivid dreams, increased nausea, and itchy skin due likely to the progesterone.

Mid-week 9:

  • 1st pregnancy: Nothing new.
  • 2nd pregnancy: Second sonogram and baby is doing well. Thought we were at 8 1/2 weeks. But due to baby’s size, we were put back at original timing, a week ahead of what baby measured at last appointment.

Beginning of week 12:

  • 1st pregnancy: Fourth sonogram. Progesterone still doing well and I finish the supplements. Based on the baby’s size our estimated due date is pushed back two weeks.
  • 2nd pregnancy: Third sonogram (and later that week fourth due to baby moving too much on the third one.) Baby is still on track and doing well. Finish up progesterone treatment.

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