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What is progestin?

The term progestin usually refers to a synthetic form of the female hormone progesterone, which women's ovaries produce naturally and which plays a major role in menstruation and pregnancy. Progestin is used to address different women's health issues in several ways, including the following:
  • Progestin is used in birth control pills. In some pill formulations, progestin is the only active ingredient (the progestin-only pill or "mini" pill). It prevents pregnancy by making ovulation less likely, thickening cervical mucus so that sperm cannot penetrate it easily to get to the egg and by thinning the lining of the uterus so that if an egg is fertilized it won't implant into the uterine lining. More commonly, progestin is combined with a synthetic version of the hormone estrogen in birth control pills. Progestins for birth control are also found in intrauterine devices and given by injection in the drug Depo-Provera.
  • Progestin is used in hormone replacement therapy. Women who have passed through menopause and who have not had a hysterectomy (surgical removal of their uterus) are sometimes prescribed progestin in combination with estrogen to reduce the symptoms of menopause and/or to reduce risk of osteoporosis. The progestin component of this combined hormone replacement therapy helps to protect the uterus from developing cancer.
  • Progestin may be prescribed to treat endometriosis, a condition in which the cells that line the uterus grow elsewhere in the body, such as on the ovaries or bowel. These wayward deposits of uterine lining can cause pain and abnormal bleeding, especially during menstruation. Progestin can help reduce endometriosis symptoms by stopping ovulation temporarily and thinning the uterine lining.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.