Do You Know The 4 Key Differences Between Progesterone and Progestins?

Progestins/progestogens are linked to increased breast cancer risk in recent research so do you know the difference between them and the natural hormone progesterone?


What’s in a name? Well quite a lot really if you are confusing the synthetic progestins/progestogens with the actual hormone progesterone.

This sadly this seems to be increasingly the case as an article raising the increased risk of the synthetic hormones and cancer was in the media recently.

The risk is from the synthetic hormones, particularly if used alone as in the over the counter contraceptive Pill or in a combined form, but the article went on to say say that progestogen is the hormone produced in the ovaries.

This which certainly came as a surprise to me, as only progesterone the actual hormone is produced in the ovaries – not a synthetic equivalent – but is typical in the way the terms are used inaccurately and spreading more confusion.

Increased risk

A  major study by the University of Oxford found that all forms of hormonal contraceptives increase a woman’s risk by up to a third.

Researchers analysed data from more than 27,000 women: a third of whom developed breast cancer between ages of 20 and 49, and two-thirds who didn’t and did not look at the synthetic progestins/progestogens in HRT.

The consensus from Cancer experts is this increases the risk only slightly, but if you have a family history of breast cancer it is worth considering other forms of contraception.

Why does it matter?

There is an assumption in the media – and often by doctors themselves – that they are interchangeable and mean the same thing.

They seem to believe that it does not matter which one you use but they are wrong. The synthetic forms are normally called progestins or progestogens, it differs from country to country, but they are exactly the same thing.

Dame Dr Shirley Bond recommended and used bioidentical hormones herself for many years and has commented:

“I find it worrying that doctors and scientists who claim to be experts in HRT do not seem to be aware that progesterone and progestins are not the same thing and do not have the same effects.

Their ignorance is worrying because it is leading to incorrect and even dangerous information being given to women. It is also necessary for the media to learn the difference although one cannot blame them for reporting the incorrect information given to them by the so called experts. It is interesting that many women are more informed than the experts.”

If you want to know more then read on:

Difference No 1

This is the easiest, most obvious and the simplest. One is natural the other is a chemical synthetic. The natural hormone is progesterone and the manufactured progestins or progestogens that appear in the Pill/Coil/HRT  are chemicals.

Difference No 2

Progesterone is the hormone naturally produced by women in the ovaries.

Progestins/progestogens mimic the effect of the natural hormone, but they are not identical to that produced in the body and so not recognised by it as such.

It is a little bit like a key that has been copied from the original but when you put it in the lock does not quite fit or turn.

Progesterone is immediately identified by the body as natural to it, as the right fit so to speak, but the synthetics are not.

Difference No 3

This is a crucially important one. Natural progesterone has not been identified with any side effects, but the synthetics have a whole host that are associated with them.

They are known to increase risks in hormonally related cancer such as in the breast, uterus and ovary and disorders of blood clotting.

They have been linked to strokes, heart problems and deep vein thrombosis, and can worsen mood, PMS and depression in vulnerable women.

Difference No 4

Progestins/progestogens cannot reproduce exactly the effect of progesterone in the body, but a bio-identical micronised progesterone cream can.

Although not manufactured in the body it is recognised by it as being absolutely bioidentical to the real hormone – it is responded to as progesterone, unlike the synthetic alternative progestins or progestogens.

Helpful information:

Your choice of contraception does not have to be the pill, there are no hormones in the copper coil for instance, rather than the standard ones with progestins/progestogens.

At menopause many women do have the Pill or HRT to help with heavy bleeding but here too there is a choice.

Bioidentical  hormones are safe and effective but without the side effects or health risks associated with their synthetic equivalents.

You may wish to supplement with bioidentical progesterone, or a combination cream with bioidentical oestrogen as well if you have symptoms that need that extra help for conditions such as vaginal dryness.

It helps to know just what your options are and exactly what is in the Pill/Coil/HRT you are using.