Rescue of the corpus luteum from its programmed senescence maintains progesterone production required for pregnancy. In primates, chorionic gonadotropin produced by the developing conceptus acts as the primary luteotrophic signal. The purpose of this research was to assess corpus luteum rescue by examining changes in daily urinary progesterone metabolite levels during the first week after implantation. We determined the variability in progesterone metabolite profiles and evaluated its relationship to early pregnancy loss in 120 naturally conceived human pregnancies, including 43 early pregnancy losses. In other primates, an abrupt increase in the progesterone metabolite occurs at the time of implantation. This pattern occurred in an estimated 45% of the pregnancies in the present study. In the remaining pregnancies, there was a delayed rise (18%), neither a rise or decline (22%), or a decline (15%) during the week after implantation. The estimated rate of early pregnancy loss increased across these categories (from 5% loss with an abrupt rise at implantation to 100% loss with progesterone metabolite decline). Low urinary hCG levels in early pregnancy were significant determinants of a decline in postimplantation progesterone metabolite. However, preimplantation steroid metabolite levels were not significant, suggesting no inherent problem with the corpus luteum. Examination of individual progesterone metabolite profiles in relation to hCG profiles also indicated that few losses were caused by corpus luteum failure. Delineating the functional importance of an abrupt progesterone rise at the time of implantation may provide new strategies for promoting successful implantation in assisted reproduction.
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