The female reproductive system has two cycles: the ovarian cycle and the uterine cycle. The ovarian cycle refers to the development and release of the egg and changes in the follicles. It comprises the follicular phase, ovulation and luteal phase. The uterine cycle describes the preparation of the inner lining of the uterus for implantation and shedding of this lining when implantation has failed. These cycles happen at the same time and depend on each other.
Ovarian Cycle Follicular Phase Ovulation Luteal Phase
Cycle Menstrual Phase Proliferative Phase Secretory Phase
In this article, we look at the luteal phase, how long it should be, how short is too short and what you can do about a luteal phase defect.
What happens during the luteal phase?
The luteal phase occurs after ovulation. Once the egg is released, it travels to the fallopian tube where it waits to be fertilized by the sperm. At the same time, the follicle becomes a corpus luteum and starts producing oestrogen and progesterone. Progesterone thickens the lining of the uterus so that a fertilized egg can implant. Blood vessels grow inside the lining. These vessels will supply oxygen and nutrients to the developing embryo.
If the egg is fertilized and implants in the endometrium, your body will start to produce human gonadotropin (hCG) which is a hormone that maintains the corpus luteum and enables it to continue producing progesterone. By the 10th week of pregnancy, the placenta takes over the progesterone production. During pregnancy, progesterone levels will continue increasing:
- first trimester: 10 to 44 ng/mL
- second trimester: 19 to 82 ng/mL
- third trimester: 65 to 290 ng/mL
Short luteal phase: how short is too short?
The luteal phase lasts between 12 and 14 days. Your luteal phase is short if it lasts less than 10 days. If you are monitoring your cycle with myLotus, you have a short luteal phase if your period happens 10 days or less after you ovulate. A short luteal phase can result in uterus lining that doesn’t grow properly and make it difficult to become or remain pregnant.
Symptoms of short luteal phase include:
- Difficulty getting pregnant
- Repeated miscarriages
- Spotting between periods
- Short menstrual cycles
Causes of short luteal phase
A short luteal phase is often the result of the corpus luteum not producing enough progesterone or the lining of the uterus not responding to the hormone produced. There are some conditions which have been associated with short luteal phases:
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Thyroid disorders
- Extreme physical activity
- Aged over 35
Treatment of short luteal phase
Treatment of short luteal phase depends on the underlying cause. When the cause is identified, it is possible to address the short luteal phase and improve the chances of conception and pregnancy. Treatment may include improving weight, correcting thyroid imbalances, promote ovulation with medication (to have a stronger corpus luteum), or taking progesterone supplements.
A short luteal phase is thought to occur in 5% of ovulatory cycles. If you have a history of two or more early miscarriages, you may be experiencing short luteal phases. Tracking your cycle helps you identify ovulation and a possible short luteal phase which happens if your period is 10 days or less after ovulation.
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