Luteal phase of the cycle, what it is and how long it lasts

Luteal phase of the cycle, what it is and how long it lasts


The luteal phase of the menstrual cycle is a kind of crossroads: it is now in fact that it is clear whether pregnancy is has begun or if the there was no conception. It is therefore worthwhile to find out more. 

What is the luteal phase of the cycle and how long does it last

The luteal (or luteal) phase of the cycle is where you determine whether you are pregnant or not. If fertilization has occurred, this is the period in which the body prepares to welcome and protect the "product of conception". If, on the other hand, all this has not happened, menstruation is approaching.

As it is easy to guess, the luteal phase is the one that goes from ovulation to the beginning of the next menstrual cycle. Its duration therefore varies according to the moment in which there was ovulation. Put simply, it is the time when the body is geared up for pregnancy or menstruation. It seems very easy, but in reality, many things happen. 

Thanks to the luteinizing hormone, the follicle is transformed into the corpus luteum, a gland that has a very important function: the production of progesterone. This hormone prepares the endometrium for implantation of the fertilized egg and raises the basal temperature to make the uterus even more welcoming. 

But what is the fate of the corpus luteum? If there has been no fertilization, the levels of LH hormone and progesterone decrease and the corpus luteum regresses. The surface layer of the endometrium then flakes off and menstruation appears. Conversely, in the event of fertilization, we witness the birth of the corpus luteum gravidarum, thanks to the action of the chorionic gonadotropin, those famous beta HCG that make the pregnancy test positive. At this stage, the production of progesterone serves to support the start of the most exciting adventure in life: becoming a mother!

Length of the luteal phase 

It is evident that each woman is unique and the times of her menstrual cycle are subjective. Therefore, there are no "deadlines" that are the same for all. The luteal phase is also part of this reasoning and its length is variable. 

  • Normal luteal phase. A normal length is considered to be 11 to 17 days. In most women, the luteal phase lasts 12 to 14 days.
  • Short luteal phase. If menstruation occurs less than 10 days after ovulation, the luteal phase is called short. In this case, it may be more difficult to get pregnant or it may take longer because the luteal phase so short does not allow the uterus to prepare in the best way for a pregnancy. 
  • Long luteal phase. Often the basis of a particularly long luteal phase is a hormonal imbalance, such as polycystic ovary syndrome. 

When the luteal phase lasts less than 10 days, it is called luteal insufficiency. This can mean that the endometrium does not develop sufficiently to be able to receive the fertilized egg. Luteal insufficiency affects 4-5% of women dealing with an infertility problem or repeated miscarriages. 

Knowing your body well, observing it, taking note of the various phases of the cycle are very important aspects when deciding to have a baby. This allows you to report any anomalies or difficulties in conception to the gynecologist. The doctor can then guide you towards an appropriate diagnosis and treatment. 

Defects of the luteal phase of the cycle

When not enough progesterone is produced by the body or if there are difficulties in nesting the egg in the endometrium because it does not respond to the stimulus of progesterone, it is called a luteal phase defect. The consequences of this deficit can be various:

  • close and frequent menstrual cycles. 
  • Miscarriage. 
  • Difficulty in conception. 
  • Spotting (bleeding) between menstrual periods. 

Luteal phase deficiency is linked to various health problems, including anorexia, polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, elevated prolactin levels, obesity, thyroid disorders. 

How are luteal phase defects diagnosed

Often a luteal phase deficit can negatively affect the possibility of having a baby. To accurately diagnose a problem related to the luteal phase, the gynecologist may order a series of tests. First, the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH) and progesterone levels are checked. Other investigations that can be performed are endometrial biopsy and pelvic ultrasound to evaluate its thickness. 

Depending on the diagnosis, the doctor can prescribe different therapies ranging from the administration of progesterone to that of drugs to increase fertility. Obviously, the therapy will be customized to the needs of each patient. 

The premenstrual syndrome 

Every partner knows by now: the days before the arrival of menstruation it is better if he favors us, he proves us right even if we are wrong and line straight at home. Even a sock left in the bedroom or a sink stained with toothpaste can trigger war conflicts during PMS. And there is nothing to do: almost all women clearly perceive when menstruation is about to arrive.

In addition to nervousness, the "package" of symptoms that can occur in the 5-6 days before the start of the new cycle is quite rich and varied: headache, swollen and painful breasts, muscle or abdominal pain, fatigue, insomnia, mood swings, nausea, eating disorders, water retention, acne, constipation. In short, there is just something to have fun with ...

But what are the causes of all this "nice" disruption? Hormones, genetic predisposition, a lack of serotonin or magnesium. But something can be done to get better. Compatibly with the degree of discomfort, the first thing is to try to react and do activities that you like and relax: your favorite sport, a walk outdoors, a chat with your best friend. Second tip: avoid eating junk food. It is true that the body almost seems to ask to gorge itself on chocolate and french fries, but the effect will be immediate satisfaction and then a drop in mood and an increase in nervousness. Among other suggestions: drink lots of water, try to rest and do what you like best.

When the symptoms are very disabling, so much so that you don't even get out of bed, it is advisable to talk to the gynecologist. It could be a severe form of PMS that needs to be treated together with the specialist. 

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