Luteal Phase – An Overview Of The Symptoms, Causes, and Hormones
The menstrual cycle is a fascinating aspect of human physiology. It is a collection of several events delicately orchestrated by fertility hormones. The menstrual cycle events can be divided into three distinct phases- the follicular phase, the ovulation phase, and the luteal phase. In this post, we will be detailing the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. Some of the most important questions we would be answering in this post include the following-
What is the luteal phase?
How long does the luteal phase last?
What are the hormonal changes occurring during this phase?
How does the luteal phase affect your fertility?
The post will also include some important tips on monitoring your luteal phase. So, please sit back, and let’s begin!
What is the luteal phase?
The luteal phase is one of the crucial phases of your menstrual cycle that follows ovulation. The phase of the menstrual cycle before ovulation is called the follicular phase.
In the follicular phase, a few ovarian follicles develop simultaneously in the ovaries, and one of them matures and prepares to release an egg. The follicular phase lasts from day 1 to about day 13 of the menstrual cycle.
Right around the 14th day of the menstrual cycle, the mature ovarian follicle (now called Graafian follicle) fuses with the ovary wall and releases an egg. The release of a mature egg from the ovary is called ovulation.
Once the egg is released from the follicle, the remaining follicular structure in the ovary transforms into a yellow-coloured mass called corpus luteum that releases a fertility hormone called Progesterone.
The level of Progesterone keeps rising through the initial part of the luteal phase, reaching its peak around the middle. If the egg released during the ovulation phase is not fertilized, the corpus luteum degrades into a white-coloured mass called corpus Albicans and stops producing Progesterone. Consequently, the level of Progesterone starts to fall.
The end of the luteal phases is marked by the beginning of menstruation. The day you spot blood (the first day of your period) is the first day of the follicular phase, and the cycle begins again.
The duration of the luteal phase depends on the length of your menstrual cycle. If you have a typical 28-day menstrual cycle, the luteal phase lasts from about 12-14 days. That said, the duration of the luteal phase can significantly change if your menstrual cycle is longer or shorter compared to the typical 28-day cycle.
According to some sources, a menstrual cycle between 21 and 35 days is considered normal, while some other authorities consider it normal to have a menstrual cycle between 21 and 45 days. As the length of the luteal phase depends on the length of your menstrual cycle, it is difficult to track the luteal phase.
One of the best ways to predict the length of your luteal phase is to track your menstrual cycle. The number of days between the ovulation and your next period is the length of your luteal phase. Although you will know exactly when your period starts, it is not that easy to know when you have ovulated. That said, there are a few methods that you can use to determine the time of ovulation. Some of these include the following-
Ovulation predictor kits are one of the easiest and most accurate ways to predict ovulation. As a result, OPKs are quite popular among women who are trying to get pregnant. Fertility2Family offers some of the most cost-effective OPKs on the market that are laboratory tested for accuracy.
The Ovulation predictor kits detect the levels of a hormone called luteinizing hormone (LH) in your urine. Ovulation is brought about by a sudden and sharp increase in LH levels in your body, a phenomenon called LH surge. As the level of LH increases in the blood, some of it is excreted in the urine, and Fertility2Family’s ovulation predictor kits can detect it easily. Thus, you can know precisely when you have ovulated.
Why is it important to know about the Luteal phase?
If you are trying to conceive, you must keep close tabs on your menstrual cycle events, especially ovulation. Once the ovaries release an egg during ovulation, it has about 24 hours to get fertilized. If the egg remains unfertilized during this time, the egg is no longer viable, and you can’t get pregnant till the next menstrual cycle.
Progesterone levels play a crucial role in preparing your body for pregnancy. Here is how this important hormone prepares your body for pregnancy include-
The Progesterone released by the corpus luteum during the luteal phase is responsible for the thickening of the endometrial lining of the uterus.
A thick endometrial lining is a prerequisite for the proper implantation of the embryo.
If you have a shorter luteal phase, your body might not have enough Progesterone for preparing for implantation. The chances of successful implantation are significantly reduced if your luteal phase is less than ten days.
Apart from not preparing your body for implantation, a low level of Progesterone can also create an unhealthy imbalance between various fertility hormones. An imbalance between the two important hormones of the female reproductive system- estrogen and Progesterone, can lead to some health issues, including-
Development of fibroids
Decrease in sex drive
Unfortunately, you can’t track progesterone levels at home. However, you can track your LH surge using ovulation prediction kits. If you observe that your luteal phase is shorter than ten days, visit your OBGYN immediately. Spotting any potential issue early will help you to handle it better.
What are the indications of the luteal phase?
The luteal phase symptoms are most evident when the level of Progesterone falls during the latter half. Many women experience both physical as well as mental effects during this time. Premenstrual syndrome or PMS is a term often used to denote these symptoms. Some of these include the following-
Trouble sleeping ( Insomnia)
Headache and muscle ache
Cramps in the abdominal region
In most women, the PMS symptoms are mild to moderate. However, in some women, they can be more severe. Many over-the-counter (OTC) medications can manage these symptoms if they become too difficult to handle. Some of the medicines that you can try include-
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen can relieve headaches and cramps.
OTC medications, commonly called ‘water pills,’ are diuretic agents that can help to relieve bloating.
Oral contraceptive pills contain progesterone and estrogen derivatives that release at a steady state in the blood after ingestion. These agents can help treat symptoms of PMS, such as cramps and acne.
Some women experience severe depression during the later part of their luteal phase; a condition termed Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Antidepressants can be of great help in relieving anxiety and depression caused by PMDD.
Conceive Plus Women’s Fertility Prenatal Vitamins Provides key fertility ingredients, vitamins and minerals that support the female reproductive system for women trying to conceive.
Consult your OBGYN if you are experiencing any abnormalities during your menstrual cycle.
What is a luteal phase defect?
Luteal phase defect is the term used to represent a condition in which the uterine lining is not thick enough for proper implantation. A uterine lining that is inadequately thick can cause potential issues during implantation. If the lining is too thick, the embryo cannot implant properly, and your chances of conception can be drastically reduced. Some of the reasons for luteal phase defect include-
If the ovaries are unable to produce enough Progesterone (usually due to a shorter luteal phase)
If the uterine lining is unable to respond properly to the available Progesterone.
Several health issues have been shown in studies to lead to luteal phase defects. Some of them include-
Hyperprolactinemia (Over-secretion of the hormone prolactin)
The treatment of luteal phase defect usually involves the treatment of the underlying cause. For most women, the luteal phase defect is corrected once the underlying cause is treated.
Track your menstrual cycle & boost your chances of conceiving
Hormonal imbalances are one of the most important causes of infertility among women of all ages. If you are TTC, your success is contingent on the proper balance of your hormone levels. If your OBGYN finds that your fertility hormones are not in the right balance, he/she might take corrective methods. Some of them include the following-
Use of the pregnancy hormone or hCG can help improve progesterone secretion as well as help in ovulation.
Clomiphene citrate (trade name Clomid) stimulates the ovaries to release eggs. If you have anovulatory cycles, this medication can help you get your ovulation back in order.
Progesterone can be directly administered in the form of pills, injections, or depots.
Positive lifestyle changes can also work wonders to correct hormonal imbalances and improve your chance of getting pregnant. Taking good care of your body in general and your reproductive health, in particular, is essential if you are TTC.