The Luteal Phase and Its Relationship to Pregnancy
The luteal phase plays an important role in determining a woman's chances of conceiving a child. Keep reading to find out how it works.
The luteal phase is the phase that begins after ovulation and ends at the start of the next menstrual cycle. Few women pay much attention to this detail until they start looking to become pregnant.
Since the luteal phase is so short in duration, it can make conceiving a challenge. It can also lead to early loss of pregnancy.
It’s important to be aware that the luteal phase isn’t only important when it comes to getting pregnant. The normal duration (within standard parameters) of the luteal phase is a sign of a healthy menstrual cycle.
This indicates that a woman’s body is functioning correctly. In other words, it allows for many of the functions of a woman’s body to take place normally.
“In general, the possibility of fertilization exists only in the phase of the menstrual cycle in which ovulation has occurred, after day 14, approximately, and for only 1 to 3 days, approximately, after ovulation; the amount of time an ovule can survive before degenerating.”
– Galicia Regional Government –
What takes place during the luteal phase?
Once ovulation has already occurred, the female body enters into a period of waiting for a possible pregnancy. During this time, the corpus luteum – the structure found in the interior of the ovaries and that is responsible for sustaining ovulation – starts to produce progesterone.
This hormone causes the uterus fundus (top of the uterus) to become more dense so that implantation of the fertilized egg can occur adequately.
If there is no fertilized egg to implant in the uterus, then a woman’s corpus luteum will stop producing progesterone during the next 11 to 17 days. Finally, the female body expels the unfertilized egg through menstruation.
Why is it important to consider the luteal phase when trying to get pregnant?
Pregnancy doesn’t begin when a sperm fertilizes an ovule. Rather, pregnancy begins when the embryo adheres to the uterus, a process called implantation.
In order for this to occur, a woman’s body must administer the right amount of progesterone. This assures that the surface is healthy and strong enough for growth to begin.
When a woman’s luteal phase lasts less than 10 days, that means that her body produces less progesterone.
In other words, there are less chances of implantation occurring and of the embryo attaching correctly. Therefore, women whose luteal phase lasts up to 15 or 16 days have a much easier time getting pregnant.
A short luteal phase can be due to a variety of internal factors. For example, thyroid problems, aging, and obesity can all cause the luteal phase to be over sooner. Other aspects like stress, anxiety, excess exercise and eating disorders alter this natural process.
Symptoms of problems with the luteal phase
- Short and frequent menstrual cycles.
- Difficulty getting pregnant.
- Bleeding or spotting between menstrual cycles.
It’s worth pointing out that the duration of the luteal phase shouldn’t change as a woman ages. What changes is the level of progesterone production as a woman approaches menopause.
The luteal phase in women who aren’t looking to conceive
The duration of this part of a woman’s menstrual cycle is a major indicator of her level of progesterone production. Don’t forget that this is a fundamental hormone in the maintenance of a healthy body. Some of the functions of progesterone are the following:
- Developing healthy and strong bone cells.
- Improving metabolic functioning (increasing energy levels and regulating appetite).
- Helping women fall asleep and rest better.
- Making skin and hair healthier and giving them a shinier and healthier appearance.
- Counteracting the actions of cancerous cells in the breasts and endometrium.
- Allowing the intestinal muscles to be more relaxed. This prevents complex and uncomfortable conditions like constipation.
- Improving a woman’s mood during menstruation.
- Strengthening the cells that make up the lining of the uterus where fertilized eggs will implant and develop.
The luteal phase is a very important indicator of fertility. The knowledge a woman has of her own body and reproductive system is essential if she’s looking to become a mother.
If any of the above symptoms appear, women should consult a specialist who will carry out the necessary testing and recommend proper treatment.