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Progesterone and Pregnancy – How Bad Do You Want It?

by Dr. Stephen Gangemi on March 14, 2011

Recently, KV Pharmaceutical of suburban St.Louis won government approval to exclusively sell a pregnancy drug, known as Makena. Makena is a synthetic form of the hormone progesterone commonly given to women who are at risk of preterm births. The March of Dimes and many obstetricians initially supported the approval because they thought it would mean that the quality would be more consistent and it would be easier to get. Plus, the drug has only been about $10 to $20 per injection, so it comes relatively cheap. Starting this week, they’ll be surprise to see two more zeros attached to the price tag of each injection – the price of Makena shoots up to $1,500 a dose. KV Pharmaceutical is taking nice advantage of their exclusive ownership of the drug.

I always enjoy the justification the spokespersons give in these situations. KV Pharmaceutical chief executive Gregory J. Divis Jr states, “The cost is justified to avoid the mental and physical disabilities that can come with very premature births.” Hey Gregory, are you saying you were losing money when you only charged 1% of the cost now?

Obviously much of the burden will fall on health insurance companies, which will have to raise premiums or other costs to their other customers. Aetna figures the new federal endorsement is likely to cost an estimated $30 million more annually. Essentially, we’re all paying KV Pharmaceutical. But onto the health topic at hand here…

Progesterone is that important hormone that precedes and promotes gestation (pregnancy). Many women suffer miscarriages, especially in their first trimester, due to low progesterone levels. As mentioned earlier, low progesterone levels can also responsible for preterm births. Low progesterone levels can also be the reason a woman cannot conceive.

Reports may state there are “no good alternatives”, but actually that is far from the truth. For starters, natural forms of ANY hormone are always better than any synthetic form. Bioidentical hormones are more compatible with human physiology. But more important is to figure out why a woman isn’t making her own progesterone, or perhaps is losing it faster than she can make it.

Progesterone is initially made from cholesterol, which means essentially fatty-acids are necessary for its production. That means omega 3 fats from fish and flax oils, and omega 6 fats from vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds are very important. The omega 9 fat, olive oil, is beneficial too, as are some forms of arachiodonic acid, from grass-fed meats, egg yolks, dairy fats (butter), and avocadoes. Vitamin E is also very important in progesterone production as well as estrogens too.

Often a woman is making the progesterone but she is losing it faster than she can make it. The most common reason for this is that she is converting the progesterone to cortisol, the body’s major stress hormone. If she is under more stress than she can handle, cortisol levels will increase and it needs to be made from somewhere – and progesterone is readily available (initially) in high amounts to make more stress hormone.

Physical stress from an old or present injury, pain, or lack of proper exercise can increase cortisol levels. Exercising too anaerobically will increase cortisol levels very quickly, and start to deplete progesterone levels.

Nutritional and chemical stress from a poor diet often increases cortisol too. Carbohydrate intolerance and insulin problems, caused from eating too many refined sugars and processed foods, will increase cortisol levels and deplete progesterone. Hydrogenated fats will block important steps needed in cholesterol synthesis and therefore progesterone synthesis. Ultimately a woman may be having a difficult time even getting pregnant, or if she does, she is at increased risk of losing the baby or not carrying to full-term, if cortisol continues to use up the progesterone.

And of course emotional stress can increase cortisol and deplete progesterone. Resolving that stress, whether at home or at work, is important for a healthy pregnancy. Aerobic exercise, meditation, prayer, and listening to classical music will increase your brain’s alpha waves and therefore decrease cortisol.

So let KV get away with robbery. Eating healthy, proper exercise, and living a balanced life will keep expecting moms, and their child, well so there is less need for medical intervention. Yes, some people do need and benefit from progesterone, but many of them can choose to live healthier lifestyles resulting in a less costly, more successful and healthier pregnancy, labor, and delivery.

I'm a board certified chiropractic physician and clinical nutritionist with a passion for true natural health care. I implement dietary & nutritional therapies, exercise & movement practices, and lifestyle changes along with manual therapy techniques to help the body heal and prevent illness and injuries.

From → Health Concerns

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  1. More stillbirths or premature births will occur if KV does not shift their price point on the drug. This gouging will lead to increased death, that will trigger lawsuits that will put KV out of business in a year or two. Hopefully KV will act before the repercussions are irreversible.

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