Luteal phase: everything you need to know about this period of the menstrual cycle
The luteal phase is the period of the menstrual cycle that occurs after ovulation and just before menstruation. What should you know about this phase? We tell you everything in this article!
- What is the luteal phase?
- Focus on the corpus luteum: key element of pregnancy
- How long is the luteal phase?
- What are the symptoms of the luteal phase on the female body?
- How do you calculate when the luteal phase begins?
- What factors can change the length of the luteal phase?
- Can I get pregnant during the luteal phase?
What is the luteal phase?
The menstrual cycle is divided into 4 phases: the menstruationthe follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase (which we will discuss in this article).
This last phase is the last phase of the cycle. It lasts about 14 days. This is when the ovulatory window takes place, i.e. the time when the woman is most fertile.
It is during this second phase that the embryo can implant in the uterus. It is also called the secretory phase. In the absence of fertilization, this phase occurs between ovulation and the first day of menstruation, while if fertilization has occurred, it occurs between the 14th day (ovulatory period) and the implantation of the embryo (i.e., the beginning of the pregnancy).
During this phase, the mucous membrane becomes thicker and fills with blood. This is a reaction caused by progesterone (which acts on the uterine mucosa) to be able to receive an embryo, to prepare for a pregnancy with the nesting and growth of the egg.
It is during this phase that premenstrual syndrome (PMS) disorders occur. PMS corresponds to a set of physical and psychological symptoms such as sore breasts, stomach aches, hunger pangs, fatigue, sadness, mood and sleep disorders, etc...
Focus on the corpus luteum: a key element of pregnancy
The corpus luteum is created by theempty shell of the egg, i.e. a mature ovarian follicle. It is a temporary endocrine gland that produces progesterone to make the uterus welcoming and ready for a future embryo.
If fertilization does not occur, the corpus luteum will deteriorate in about 14 days before menstruation occurs.
On the other hand, if fertilization occurs, the corpus luteum will still produce progesterone hormones, at a high rate to allow vascularization and subsequent implantation. At the same time, progesterone will act to make the cervical mucus denser and make it more difficult for the spermatozoa to pass through to protect the uterus.
How long is the luteal phase?
Unlike the follicular phase (the period when the follicles develop), its duration does not change. It lasts an average of 14 days, no matter how long your cycle is. For some women, it can last 13 to 15 days, but this is more rare. It's important to have a normal cycle length because it's a sign that your body is working well and that you're healthy.
What happens if I have a short luteal phase?
If you have a short luteal period, that is, less than 11 days, this is called luteal insufficiency. The same is true if your progesterone levels are too low (i.e. less than 0.5 ng/ml). In the case of a short luteal period, the chances of conceiving are much lower, and in some cases even zero, since the implantation of the embryo is impossible. Since the progesterone level is too low, the uterus cannot be ready for a pregnancy since the uterine lining is evacuated before the embryo has had time to implant.
With insufficient progesterone levels, the risk of miscarriage is also much higher. A good progesterone level also allows the fetus to develop properly.
When you have a short luteal period, you are prone to spotting and you have a short menstrual cycle.
How to extend the length of the luteal phase?
Of course, there are solutions to help lengthen the luteal phase, or that the progesterone content of your body is sufficient. This can be :
- A treatment for thyroid disorders (if the concern is a dysfunction of the thyroid gland);
- Taking vitamin C;
- Progesterone creams ;
- Hormonal treatment;
- Progesterone supplementation .
What are the symptoms of the luteal phase on the female body?
This period, like all other phases, has its own set of symptoms . There are several ways to know if you are in this phase:
- By taking your body temperature: it will increase by 0.3 to 0.5 degrees on average;
- With the increase in hormones, it is possible to have a greater appetite;
- The white discharge changes in appearance: during the middle days of the cycle, it becomes more abundant and liquid to facilitate the passage of spermatozoa. A few days later, it becomes thicker and more opaque;
- Finally, the easiest way to know if you are in the luteal phase is to calculate your menstrual cycle. If it is regular, it is even easier to know in which phase you are.
How to calculate the arrival of the luteal phase?
If you are planning a pregnancy or if you simply want to learn more about your cycle, it may be interesting to learn how to calculate the arrival of your different phases. To make your life easier, we recommend using a period application. Otherwise, we detail below everything you need to know to calculate it yourself!
28-day menstrual cycle
If your cycle lasts 28 days, then your luteal period is 14 days long. It starts on the 15th day of your period and ends on the 28th day, with the arrival of the first period bleeding.
Luteal phase for a short cycle
If your cycle is short, then the follicular phase is shortened and ovulation occurs earlier. For example, if it lasts 21 days, it means that it takes place on day 7 and the last phase begins on day 8.
Luteal phase for a long cycle
Finally, if you have a long menstrual cycleyou can do the same thing: remove 14 days from the date of your period to find out the length of the luteal phase. In the case of a long cycle, the follicular period is longer and ovulation comes later.
What factors can affect the length of the luteal phase?
Several factors can affect the cycle and make the luteal period shorter. These may include factors such as:
- External factors such as stress, too much sports, sleep disorders, eating disorders, overweight and thinness will play a role in the secretion of hormones and therefore in the secretion of progesterone;
- PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome);
- An insufficiency of the corpus luteum, that is to say that the corpus luteum does not develop, leads to a production of progesterone that is too weak as well as a short luteal period;
- Age : as you get older, from the age of 35, fertility decreases;
- A thyroid disorder.
Can I get pregnant during the luteal phase?
The window of fertility is rather short: you can get pregnant 4 days before ovulation, and 24 hours after. This window of fertility will depend on the lifespan of the spermatozoa, which live on average from 3 to 5 days in the vagina and in the cervix, and the egg, which lives about 24 hours after being released. This is why it is unlikely to get pregnant during your period.
Luteal Phase FAQs
What are the differences between the luteal phase and the follicular phase?
The luteal phase is the period after ovulation while the follicular phase is the period before the ovulatory phase.
What are the differences between the luteal phase and ovulation?
The luteal phase comes after ovulation. During the window of fertility, the cervical mucus becomes more liquid, transparent and stringy like egg whites, to let sperm through. During the luteal period, after the window of fertility, the discharge becomes thicker and much less transparent.
What is the impact of the luteal phase on fertility?
If progesterone levels are not high enough or the luteal period is too short, fertility can be impacted.
You may also like:
- Follicular phase: everything you need to know about this period of the menstrual cycle
- Long menstrual cycle: why does it last longer?