Progesterone cream is an over-the-counter product that may provide some relief of menopause symptoms. However, there is little scientific evidence of benefits, and researchers have concerns about the possible side effects.

Researchers warn that topical progesterone cream may not be a safe over-the-counter product.

Progesterone cream is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and as the researchers note, long-term effects of progesterone products can be dangerous.

This article discusses what progesterone cream is and the potential benefits and side effects.

Progesterone is a steroid hormone that plays a role in pregnancy and menstruation. This hormone prepares the uterus for pregnancy by causing its lining to thicken. If the person does not become pregnant, their progesterone levels drop, triggering menstruation.

When a person goes through menopause, their body does not make as much progesterone.

Menopause is not a health problem, it is a natural phase of life. It can have some uncomfortable or even debilitating effects, and some include:

Healthcare professionals may prescribe hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to relieve these symptoms, and they may recommend a combination of progesterone and estrogen for people with intact uteruses.

However, some people may wish to use over-the-counter products, such as progesterone creams. These products are not regulated by the FDA.

Always discuss the risks of using progesterone cream with a healthcare professional before making a purchase.

There is anecdotal evidence that progesterone cream helps relieve some menopause symptoms, but there is little scientific evidence.

Healthcare professionals may prescribe HRT that contains progesterone and estrogen for people with intact uteruses to relieve some symptoms, such as sleep disturbances and mood changes.

While there is a lack of evidence that progesterone cream treats menopause symptoms, researchers have found that it can improve skin elasticity in the initial stage of menopause and afterward.

Before purchasing any over-the-counter menopause supplement, such as progesterone cream, speak with a healthcare professional about the potential benefits and risks.

Anecdotally, progesterone cream may help relieve:

  • hot flashes
  • mood changes
  • insomnia

However, there is limited scientific evidence of these benefits.

Researchers have found that using a progesterone cream containing 40 milligrams (mg) of progesterone and 1 mg of transdermal estrogen once a day for 48 weeks reduced menopause symptoms — without evidence of a progesterone buildup. However, confirming this requires further studies.

A 2020 review suggests that applying a progesterone product to the skin may reduce the visible effects of aging. However, the authors cite findings of poor quality and stress that more research is necessary.

Progesterone can have several side effects, including:

More serious side effects are less common, but they may include:

An older review found that women who took 200 mg of oral progesterone or used 40 mg of topical progesterone had the same level of progesterone exposure. This finding has contributed to concerns about progesterone cream being available over the counter.

Supplementary progesterone may cause abnormal blood clotting. And animal studies show that it can cause tumors, though it is unclear whether it has this effect in humans.

It is important to seek medical advice before using progesterone cream. Prescription or nonprescription approaches may offer the same purported benefits with a lower risk of side effects.

Although progesterone cream is available over the counter, people should use it with caution.

One study found that people who took prescription-strength oral progesterone capsules twice daily and those who used over-the-counter progesterone cream had similar levels of progesterone after 12 days. Long-term use of progesterone can increase the risk of side effects.

If a healthcare professional recommends using over-the-counter progesterone cream, a person should follow their instructions carefully.

Some people use progesterone cream to help relieve menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes, insomnia, mood changes, and bone loss.

Very little scientific data supports these purported benefits. Consult a healthcare professional before buying a progesterone cream, and stop using it immediately if any side effects develop.