Progesterone, GABA, and Women’s Health

Posted Connie Shoemaker, ND Blog

Assessing hormones and neurotransmitters, such as progesterone and GABA, is crucial to women’s neuroendocrine health. Testing and addressing imbalances can help promote women’s sense of well-being and overall quality of life.

Progesterone and Women’s Health

Throughout life, women experience fluctuating hormone levels. Progesterone and estrogen rise and fall during the menstrual cycle, potentially contributing to mood swings and PMS concerns. [1, 8] As women move towards menopause, progesterone levels generally start to decline. [10]

Progesterone and GABA

Changes in progesterone levels can alter one’s mood and sense of well-being. This is because allopregnanolone, the progesterone metabolite, is a GABA-A receptor agonist. This means that allopregnanolone binds to GABA-A receptors. [4, 9] Thus, with higher progesterone levels, GABA function increases. As the main inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA plays roles in promoting calmness, good mood, and sleep. [3, 5, 7]

Low Progesterone and its Effects on GABA

Decreased levels of progesterone may be linked with low GABA function. Insufficient GABA has been associated with anxiety, depression, and sleep issues. Poor GABA function may also allow for increased excitatory neurotransmitter activity, which often results in poor sleep, anxiety, and other mood concerns. [7] These issues are common in and around menopause. [11]

Progesterone and Brain Health

Progesterone may also be neuroprotective. [6, 12] Studies have shown progesterone to:

  • Increase brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which increases nerve and brain repair [13]
  • Increase myelination (protective sheaths of nerves) [12]
  • Reduce glutamate response [2]
  • Limit cellular necrosis/apoptosis [6, 12]

Progesterone and GABA: Addressing Imbalance

sex hormones, sex hormone testing, progesterone, estrogen, menopause

Assessing sex hormones can be important for women’s health.


It is important for practitioners to consider progesterone and GABA function, particularly in women around menopausal age with anxiety, depression, or sleep concerns. Assessing sex hormones and neurotransmitter levels can help guide the practitioner to an appropriate intervention, such as bio-identical hormone replacement and neurotransmitter precursor and cofactor support. [1, 12]

For more information about women’s health, hormones, and menopause visit our blog posts:

Women’s Health Initiative: Understanding the Effects of Estrogen and Bioidentical Hormones

Menopause: Myths and Misinformation About HRT

If you are a practitioner and you’re ready to start assessing your patients’ neurotransmitters today, you can become a provider with Sanesco.



  1. Bäckström, T., Andreen, L., Birzniece, V., Björn, I., Johansson, I. M., Nordenstam-Haghjo, M., … & Zhu, D. (2003). The role of hormones and hormonal treatments in premenstrual syndrome. CNS drugs,17(5), 325-342.
  2. Barth, C., Villringer, A., & Sacher, J. (2015). Sex hormones affect neurotransmitters and shape the adult female brain during hormonal transition periods. Frontiers in neuroscience9.
  3. Ehlen, J. C., Hummer, D. L., Paul, K. N., & Albers, H. E. (2010). GABA involvement in the circadian regulation of sleep. In GABA and Sleep(pp. 303-321). Springer Basel.
  4. Follesa, P., Serra, M., Cagetti, E., Pisu, M. G., Porta, S., Floris, S., … & Biggio, G. (2000). Allopregnanolone synthesis in cerebellar granule cells: roles in regulation of GABAA receptor expression and function during progesterone treatment and withdrawal. Molecular Pharmacology57(6), 1262-1270.
  5. GABA Monograph, Alternative Medicine Review. Volume 12, Number 3, Sept 2007.
  6. Hu, Z., Li, Y., Fang, M., Wai, M. S., & Yew, D. T. (2009). Exogenous progesterone: a potential therapeutic candidate in CNS injury and neurodegeneration. Current medicinal chemistry16(11), 1418-1425.
  7. Longone, P., di Michele, F., D’Agati, E., Romeo, E., Pasini, A., & Rupprecht, R. (2011). Neurosteroids as neuromodulators in the treatment of anxiety disorders. Frontiers in endocrinology2.
  8. Masoumi, S. Z., Ataollahi, M., & Oshvandi, K. (2016). Effect of combined use of calcium and vitamin B6 on premenstrual syndrome symptoms: a randomized clinical trial. Journal of caring sciences, 5(1), 67.
  9. Paul, S. M., & Purdy, R. H. (1992). Neuroactive steroids. The FASEB Journal6(6), 2311-2322.
  10. Reyes, F. I., Winter, J. S., & Faiman, C. H. (1977). Pituitary-ovarian relationships preceding the menopause. I. A cross-sectional study of serum follice-stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, prolactin, estradiol, and progesterone levels. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology129(5), 557-564.
  11. Sagsöz, N., Oˇguztürk, Ö., Bayram, M., & Kamacı, M. (2001). Anxiety and depression before and after the menopause. Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics264(4), 199-202.
  12. Schüle, C., Nothdurfter, C., & Rupprecht, R. (2014). The role of allopregnanolone in depression and anxiety. Progress in neurobiology113, 79-87.
  13. Schumacher, M., Mattern, C., Ghoumari, A., Oudinet, J. P., Liere, P., Labombarda, F., … & Guennoun, R. (2014). Revisiting the roles of progesterone and allopregnanolone in the nervous system: resurgence of the progesterone receptors. Progress in neurobiology113, 6-39.
  14. Su, C., Cunningham, R. L., Rybalchenko, N., & Singh, M. (2012). Progesterone increases the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor from glia via progesterone receptor membrane component 1 (Pgrmc1)-dependent ERK5 signaling. Endocrinology153(9), 4389-4400.

Clinical Contributor

Emily Harrill

Emily Harrill

Clinical Support Specialist at Sanesco Health
Emily Harrill is our newest Clinical Support Specialist, and a graduate of UNC Asheville with a Bachelor of Science in Health and Wellness Promotion. Improving quality of life for others is her ultimate goal. She enjoys being a part of the team at Sanesco, exploring wellness through the HPA-T Axis and encouraging others to use holistic, integrative means to achieve balanced health. She loves participating in challenging, empowering, and fun activities - especially Olympic weightlifting and belly dance.
Emily Harrill

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    Disclaimer: The information provided is only intended to be general educational information to the public. It does not constitute medical advice. If you have specific questions about any medical matter or if you are suffering from any medical condition, you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.