Luteal Phase: Length and Symptoms

Your hormone balance ebbs and flows along with your menstrual cycle. If you’re trying to conceive, then learning a little more about what’s going on during the luteal phase can be empowering step to take! Let’s take a look at what happens in this stage of the menstrual cycle, what symptoms you should keep an eye out for, and what it means for you if you’re hoping to get pregnant.

What is the luteal phase?

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The luteal phase is the part of your menstrual cycle between the release of a mature egg from one of your ovaries, and the start of your next period. There are four phases all up, so let’s go through them in order!

Menstrual phase

Day 1 of the menstrual cycle is the first day of your period, when you start bleeding.

Follicular phase

During the follicular phase, a batch of egg follicles come online. One of these will develop into a mature follicle containing fertile ovum (egg cell). Meanwhile, estrogen causes the endometrium lining to thicken and prepare to support a pregnancy.

Ovulatory phase

This occurs during the middle of your cycle, when a surge of hormones from the pituitary gland causes the mature follicle to burst open and release the egg cell. This is called ovulation.

Luteal phase

The remnants of the follicle transform into a structure called the corpus luteum. The corpus luteum releases the hormone progesterone, which keeps the endometrium ready for a fertilized egg to implant.

Symptoms of the luteal phase

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If you’ve been tracking your Basal Body Temperature (BBT), you’ll be able to notice the start of your luteal phase by a rise in your temperature chart. This is because the progesterone released in the luteal phase causes your body temperature to increase slightly.

Compared to ovulation phase, you might also notice you’re producing less vaginal discharge, which is less sticky in texture. If you don’t happen to fall pregnant during this time, then the uterine lining sloughs off and you bleed it out with your next menstrual period.

How will I feel during the luteal phase?

Feeling a bit sleepy or stressed could be a sign of your luteal phase kicking in. Particularly if you’ve got a busy schedule, it’s important to listen to your body’s signals. The hormones at work during your luteal phase can make you more prone to sleepiness and irritability, so try to keep yourself in a good place over these days. Taking the time to relax with a hot bath or a good movie could be just what you need to lift your spirits.

Can I get pregnant during the luteal phase?

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On the whole, your odds of getting pregnant during the post-ovulation luteal phase are low. The egg can only survive in your fallopian tubes for 24 hours after ovulation, whereas the luteal phase generally lasts several days.

How long is the luteal phase? What if my luteal phase is too short?

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For most women, the luteal phase lasts about 2 weeks. However, if it lasts less than 10 days, it could be a sign of luteal phase defect. Luteal phase defect mean that the endometrium lining of the uterus isn’t adequately prepared, theoretically making it harder for a fertilized egg to implant and result in pregnancy.

This occurs due to hormone imbalances, which may be caused by factors such as declining ovarian function or even stress. Having a short luteal phase hasn’t been established as an independent cause of infertility, but since it could be a factor, it’s worth discussing this with your doctor if you notice a short luteal phase for more than 2 cycles.

Try to take it easy during the luteal phase

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The luteal phase is the point of your cycle where a fertilized egg will implant – or fail to implant. In that sense, it can feel like a make-or-break time if you’re trying to get pregnant. However, the best thing you can do for your fertility odds is to take care of your body: stressing over it will just leave you feeling worse! Whether or not you’re trying to get pregnant, the luteal phase is a great time to go easy on yourself and try to relax, so don’t forget to take care of yourself.