Progesterone - Friend or foe?

Front Neuroendocrinol. 2020 Oct:59:100856. doi: 10.1016/j.yfrne.2020.100856. Epub 2020 Jul 28.


Estradiol is the "prototypic" sex hormone of women. Yet, women have another sex hormone, which is often disregarded: Progesterone. The goal of this article is to provide a comprehensive review on progesterone, and its metabolite allopregnanolone, emphasizing three key areas: biological properties, main functions, and effects on mood in women. Recent years of intensive research on progesterone and allopregnanolone have paved the way for new treatment of postpartum depression. However, treatment for premenstrual syndrome and premenstrual dysphoric disorder as well as contraception that women can use without risking mental health problems are still needed. As far as progesterone is concerned, we might be dealing with a two-edged sword: while its metabolite allopregnanolone has been proven useful for treatment of PPD, it may trigger negative symptoms in women with PMS and PMDD. Overall, our current knowledge on the beneficial and harmful effects of progesterone is limited and further research is imperative.

Keywords: Allopregnanolone; Emotion; Hormonal contraceptives; Postpartum depression; Premenstrual dysphoric disorder; Progesterone.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnanolone / metabolism*
  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
  • Progesterone / metabolism*


  • Progesterone
  • Pregnanolone