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Menopause: Wild Yam and Progesterone Creams

Topic Overview

Wild yam and progesterone creams are available without a prescription and are marketed for relieving perimenopausal symptoms.

Wild yam. Although wild yam cream is marketed as a source of natural progesterone, it does not contain progesterone, and the body cannot convert it into progesterone.1

Progesterone creams. Some women use "natural" progesterone creams to correct low progesterone levels. Research is mixed about whether the cream is absorbed into the body.

Concerns about progesterone cream use

You can't actually know how much progesterone you are getting without having a whole-blood progesterone test. Because of this and the following concerns, some experts are concerned about use of over-the-counter progesterone cream.2

  • If it is absorbing well. Progesterone treatment has risks. It has been linked to headaches and dangerous blood clots in a small number of women. This is why progesterone is usually a prescription hormone and is not safe for women with certain health risks.2
  • If it is not absorbing well. If you are taking estrogen (and have an intact uterus), you also need to have enough progesterone to prevent the estrogen from causing uterine (endometrial) cancer. Using a poorly absorbed progesterone cream while taking estrogen does not protect you from uterine cancer.1

Related Information

References

Citations

  1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2001, reaffirmed 2008). Use of botanicals for management of menopausal symptoms. ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 28. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 97(6, Suppl): 1–11.
  2. Hermann AC, et al. (2005). Over-the-counter progesterone cream produces significant drug exposure compared to a Food and Drug Administration-approved oral progesterone product. Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 45(6): 614–619.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Carla J. Herman, MD, MPH - Geriatric Medicine
Last Revised April 26, 2012

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