Salivary, but not serum or urinary levels of progesterone are elevated after topical application of progesterone cream to pre-and postmenopausal women

Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2000 Nov;53(5):615-20. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2265.2000.01130.x.


Objective: The use of topically applied micronised ('natural') progesterone as a substitute for synthetic oestrogens and progestogen preparations is controversial. The aim of this study was to examine the changes in blood and salivary concentrations of progesterone following a single topical application of a progesterone cream.

Patients and measurements: We investigated six premenopausal women in the luteal phase and six postmenopausal women to determine the short-term changes in serum, urinary and salivary progesterone concentrations following a single 64 mg topical application of micronised progesterone.

Results: Serum progesterone concentrations did not increase during the first 3 hours after application of progesterone cream, however, salivary values rose significantly in both premenopausal and postmenopausal women, consistent with the view that progesterone is absorbed and transported through the body. Salivary progesterone concentrations were significantly elevated above basal levels by 30-60 minutes and reached peak levels at 1-4 h, with mean levels approximately fivefold higher in premenopausal, than in menopausal women.

Conclusions: Salivary progesterone measurements confirm that topically applied progesterone is absorbed, despite the lack of change in serum progesterone concentrations. However, at the dose administered, serum progesterone levels do not reach those observed after oral or vaginally delivered progesterone preparations. Higher doses may be required to induce biological responses within the endometrium.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absorption
  • Administration, Topical
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Luteal Phase / physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Postmenopause / physiology*
  • Premenopause / physiology*
  • Progesterone / administration & dosage
  • Progesterone / metabolism*
  • Saliva / metabolism*


  • Progesterone