The luteal phase lasts about 11 to 17 days and extends from the time of ovulation until the start of menstruation. During the so-called corpus luteum phase, the levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone rise. The luteal phase allows for the potential implantation of an embryo in the uterine lining.
Key points at a glance
Luteal phase - what is it?
The luteal phase is a part of your monthly menstrual cycle, also known as the corpus luteum phase or secretion phase. It occurs in the second half of the cycle and typically lasts 11 to 17 days.
What happens during the secretion phase
The phase begins with ovulation. The Graafian follicle is released from the fallopian tube. This follicle, shaped like a sac, contains the egg. Due to the increase in progesterone levels, the uterine lining becomes thicker and denser, allowing for the potential implantation of an embryo if fertilization occurs. If fertilization doesn't happen, the luteal phase ends with the onset of menstruation.
On average, the luteal phase lasts about 14 days, irrespective of the length of your menstrual cycle. For those aiming to conceive, it's crucial that the corpus luteum phase proceeds "normally" as this ensures the right hormone levels needed for embryo implantation and growth.
The importance of the Corpus Luteum
During the luteal phase, the corpus luteum plays a significant role. This endocrine gland forms during ovulation and develops from the empty eggshell (ovarian follicle), disintegrating within about 14 days if fertilization doesn't occur. Its breakdown marks the start of menstruation.
With conception, the endocrine gland remains within the uterine cavity and develops into the pregnancy corpus luteum. This gestational corpus luteum, known as the corpus luteum gravidicum, produces more progesterone, which leads to increased blood flow in the uterine lining, facilitating the implantation of the corpus luteum. After the first three months of pregnancy, the gestational corpus luteum disappears as the placenta takes over its functions.
Progesterone – the most important hormone
During the luteal phase, the most crucial hormone is progesterone. Both the corpus luteum and adrenal glands produce this hormone, with the corpus luteum using cholesterol as a building block. In the absence of conception, the corpus luteum breaks down after ovulation, leading to a reduction in progesterone levels. This reduction triggers the onset of menstruation.
In the case of conception, the corpus luteum produces a higher amount of progesterone, leading to thicker and more viscous cervical mucus. This creates a barrier against sperm and provides protection to the uterus, facilitating the implantation of a fertilized egg.
Progesterone also prevents uterine contractions during pregnancy by reducing uterine contractions. Additionally, it has a muscle-relaxing effect, slowing down intestinal activity.
Duration of the phase
The average duration of the luteal phase is around 14 days, independent of your menstrual cycle's length. An average duration signifies a healthy body. Typically, the duration remains consistent.
Too long or too short luteal phase? Possible causes
If your luteal phase lasts more than 17 days, it could be due to PCOS or another hormonal disorder. A prolonged corpus luteum phase might also indicate pregnancy.
If the luteal phase lasts 10 days or fewer, it's considered too short. In this case, the timeframe isn't sufficient for the uterine lining to develop for egg implantation, likely due to low progesterone levels. This often makes it harder to conceive and maintain a pregnancy. A short luteal phase is often marked by a short menstrual cycle and spotting.
Luteal dysfunction can stem from various causes, including:
- Corpus luteum insufficiency - In this case, the development of the corpus luteum is weakened, leading to insufficient progesterone production.
- Thyroid disorders – The thyroid gland plays a role in hormone production. An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can lead to a short luteal phase and irregular ovulation.
- PCOS – Polycystic ovary syndrome is a common hormonal disorder characterized by symptoms such as absent or irregular menstruation, often accompanied by obesity. Eating disorders and other external causes.
- Eating disorders and other external causes - Eating disorders, sleep disturbances, underweight, overweight, stress, and intense physical activity can influence hormone secretion, potentially lengthening or shortening your cycle. In some cases, menstruation might cease altogether.
- Age – Fertility decreases with age. After age 35, it becomes more challenging to conceive.
Extending the luteal phase
If your luteal phase lasts less than 10 days, several measures can be taken to extend it. Optimal progesterone levels are essential for this, and several options are available. Discuss the following possibilities with your gynecologist, who can assist you:
- vitamin C supplementation
- progesterone supplementation
- progesterone cream
- hormone treatment
Pregnancy: The importance for your fertility
Luteal insufficiency occurs when the luteal phase is too short. Another term for this is corpus luteum weakness, as the corpus luteum cannot develop adequately. As a result, insufficient progesterone is produced, hindering the embryo's implantation in the uterine lining. If implantation does occur, the risk of miscarriage is high.
The following symptoms can indicate luteal insufficiency, although not all symptoms necessarily occur simultaneously:
- The second half of the cycle lasts less than 10 days.
- Your basal temperature increases slowly or in partial increments – normally, it should steeply rise after ovulation.
- Strong PMS symptoms occur.
- Spotting occurs in the second half of your cycle.
- Early miscarriages might also be a sign.
Symptoms during the luteal phase
- Your basal temperature (body temperature) increases by 0.3 to 0.5 degrees.
- Hormonal changes can lead to increased appetite.
- Vaginal discharge is more liquid and copious just before ovulation.
- After ovulation, the discharge becomes thicker.
What can I do about PMS?
PMS is not a normal part of the luteal phase. Various measures can help alleviate PMS symptoms. For instance, the dietary supplement håvsund Harmony can be beneficial. It consists of natural ingredients that may contribute to hormone balance. This product includes ingredients like chasteberry, lady's mantle, St. John's wort, and saffron flowers. The gluten-free and vegan capsules are easy to swallow. They are manufactured in Germany and subject to certified laboratory controls.
Additionally, you can do the following to reduce PMS symptoms:
- ensure sufficient sleep
- reduce stress
- engage in physical activities like walks, yoga, or swimming
- maintain a balanced diet
- consume magnesium-rich foods like nuts, dried fruits, and grains
- refrain from sugar and caffeine
- apply a warm water bottle or heating pad to your lower back or abdomen
3 tips for the luteal phase
- Balanced diet: Your body requires more energy during the luteal phase. Simultaneously, you can prevent PMS by maintaining a balanced diet. Thus, you should consume foods rich in magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin B. Herbal tea is recommended instead of coffee. During this phase, avoid fast food, sugary foods, and alcohol. Additionally, your diet should be high in fiber, as elevated progesterone levels can trigger constipation.
- Moderate exercise: Your performance is reduced during the luteal phase. Hence, engage in moderate physical activities and avoid intense sports during this time. Activities like walks, light strength training, or practices such as Pilates or yoga are beneficial for your body.
- Adequate sleep: It's healthy to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. To ensure good sleep, avoid looking at screens in the evening. Artificial light from smartphones, tablets, and similar devices negatively affects the hormone melatonin. This inhibition of melatonin production can disrupt your sleep.
How do I calculate my luteal phase?
If you intend to become pregnant, determining the luteal phase is essential. Through calculation, you can ascertain whether the phase is of a normal duration or too short. In the following calculation, we assume a cycle lasting 28 days. In this case, the luteal phase starts on day 15 and ends on day 28 with the onset of menstruation. Thus, the corpus luteum phase lasts for 14 days, which is the average duration of the luteal phase.
If your cycle is shorter, lasting 21 days, ovulation occurs on the seventh day. Your corpus luteum phase then spans from the eighth day of the cycle to the 21st day.
For a longer cycle, start from the first day of your period. Subtract 14 days from this date.
Causes of Corpus Luteum weakness
Among the causes is the polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which leads to inadequate follicle maturation. Other possible causes include:
- ovarian insufficiency (inadequate production of LH and FSH hormones)
- birth control pills
- intestinal disorders
- thyroid disorders
- pancreatic disorders
- adrenal gland disorders
The progesterone deficiency present in corpus luteum weakness can often be resolved through hormone treatment. Frequently, a preparation primarily consisting of natural progesterone is used. For example, yam root contains diosgenin, a substance from which a progesterone similar to the body's own hormone can be derived.
A common medication is Clomiphene, which stimulates the production of LH and FSH. Progesterone-containing patches, creams, or capsules are also employed. All preparations containing progesterone require a prescription.
However, there are also plants that can be used as supplements. For instance, chasteberry is a proven remedy for unfulfilled fertility desires. Its ingredients help balance hormone levels, potentially enhancing fertility.