Luteal phase: everything you need to know about this period of the menstrual cycle

The luteal phase is the period of the menstrual cycle after ovulation and just before menstruation. What do you need to know about this phase? We tell you everything in this article!

What is the luteal phase?

The menstrual cycle is divided into 4 phases: menstruation menstruationthe follicular phase, ovulation and the luteal phase (discussed in this article).

The luteal phase is the last phase of the cycle. It lasts around 14 days. This is when the ovulatory window occurs, i.e. when a woman is at her most fertile.

It is during this second phase that the embryo can implant in the uterus. It's also known as the secretory phase. In the absence of fertilization, this phase occurs between ovulation and the first day of menstruation, whereas if fertilization has taken place, it occurs between the 14th day (ovulatory period) and implantation of the embryo (i.e. the start of pregnancy).

During this phase, the mucous membrane thickens and fills with blood. This is a reaction triggered by progesterone (which acts on the uterine mucosa) to enable the uterus to receive an embryo and prepare for pregnancy, with the nesting and growth of the egg.

It is during this phase that premenstrual syndrome (PMS) occurs. PMS corresponds to a set of physical and psychological symptoms such as sore breasts, tummy 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 ovum, 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 take place, the corpus luteum will deteriorate in around 14 days, before menstruation occurs.

On the other hand, if fertilization does occur, the corpus luteum will continue to produce progesterone hormones, at a high rate to allow vascularization and subsequent implantation. At the same time, progesterone will make the cervical mucus denser, complicating the passage of spermatozoa and protecting the uterus.

How long does the luteal phase last?

Unlike the follicular phase (the period when follicles develop), its duration does not change. On average, it lasts 14 days, regardless of how long your cycle lasts. For some women, it can last from 13 to 15 days, but this is rarer. It's important to have a normal cycle length: it indicates that your body is working well and that you're in good health.

What happens if I have a short luteal phase?

If you have a short luteal period, i.e. less than 11 days, this is called luteal insufficiency. The same applies if 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 nil, since embryo implantation is impossible. Since progesterone levels are too low, the uterus cannot be ready for pregnancy, as 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. Good progesterone levels also enable the fetus to develop properly.

When you have a short luteal period, you're prone to spotting and have a short menstrual cycle.

How can I lengthen the luteal phase?

Of course, there are solutions to help lengthen the luteal phase, or else ensure that your body's progesterone content is sufficient. These may include

  • Treatment for thyroid disorders (if the problem is a malfunctioning thyroid gland);
  • Taking vitamin C;
  • Progesterone creams ;
  • Hormonal treatment;
  • progesterone supplementation .

What are the symptoms of the luteal phase on the female body?

Like all other phases, the luteal phase brings its own set of symptoms . There are several ways to tell if you're in this phase:

  • Take your body temperature: it will rise by 0.3 to 0.5 degrees on average;
  • With the increase in hormones, you may 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 find out if you're in the luteal phase is to calculate your menstrual cycle. If it's regular, it's all the easier to know which phase you're in.

How do you calculate the arrival of the luteal phase?

If you're planning a pregnancy or simply want to get to know your cycle better, it may be worthwhile learning how to calculate the arrival of your different phases. To make life easier, we recommend using a period app. Otherwise, here's everything you need to know to calculate it yourself!

28-day menstrual cycle

If your cycle lasts 28 days, then your luteal period lasts 14 days. It begins on the 15th day of menstruation and ends on the 28th day, with the arrival of the first menstrual 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, this means that ovulation 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 cyclesimply proceed in the same way: remove 14 days from the date of your period to find out the length of the luteal phase. With a long cycle, the follicular period is longer and ovulation occurs later.

What factors can affect the length of the luteal phase?

Several factors can influence the cycle and make the luteal period shorter. These may include factors such as :

  • External factors such as stress, intense exercise, sleep disorders, eating disorders, overweight and thinness all play a role in hormone secretion, and therefore in the secretion of progesterone;
  • PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome);
  • Insufficient corpus luteum, i.e. the corpus luteum does not develop, resulting in low progesterone production and a short luteal period;
  • Age : fertility declines with age, from 35 onwards;
  • Thyroid disorders.

Can I get pregnant during the luteal phase?

The fertility window is fairly short: you can become pregnant 4 days before ovulation, and 24 hours afterwards. This window of fertility will depend on the lifespan of the sperm, which lives on average 3 to 5 days in the vagina and cervix, and the egg, which lives around 24 hours after being released. That's why it's unlikely to get pregnant during your period.

The luteal phase FAQ

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 ovulation.

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, allowing sperm to pass through. During the luteal period, after the window of fertility, the discharge becomes thicker and much less transparent.

What impact does the luteal phase have on fertility?

If progesterone levels aren't high enough or the luteal period is too short, fertility can be impacted.

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