Long Luteal Phase: What Does It Mean?
Your luteal phase usually starts as your egg makes its way down your fallopian tube. That is how it happens. Your ovum releases a viable egg during ovulation. Then, this egg moves through your fallopian tube toward your uterus. It is around this time that this phase begins. And it ends with the start of a new menstrual period. So you’ll see that this phase has a lot to do with pregnancy. Many of the events of this phase prepare your body for conception. In this article, we will examine this phase more closely and also explain what a long luteal phase could mean. We will also talk briefly about a short luteal phase and what it could mean.
A longer-than-usual luteal phase means that your period is coming late. And you know what this means for a woman. The first question would be whether or not you’re pregnant, right? So is your luteal phase just abnormally long, or are you pregnant already? Should you rejoice at the thought of having another child? Or should you be bothered that there may be a disorder in your cycle?
To start with, how long should this phase last? Well, it varies from one woman to another. But the normal range is anywhere from 11-17 days. A long luteal phase can give you false hopes. So let’s talk about it and examine what it could mean.
Luteal Phase: An Overview
This phase accounts for your cycle’s second half. It begins just after you ovulate and only ends when you start seeing your period.
As soon as an egg is released from your ovary, the egg starts traveling down your fallopian tube. This tube is where fertilization is likely to occur. As soon as the egg comes off the follicle, the follicle would begin to change.
Now empty, the follicle closes off and turns yellowish, thus transforming into another entirely new structure. The name of this structure is corpus luteum. This amazing structure releases some estrogen and lots of progesterone.
Progesterone from the corpus luteum thickens your uterus lining. That prepares the lining for your fertilized egg to be implanted. When implantation occurs, blood vessels in the lining would begin to supply nutrients and oxygen to the embryo as it develops.
Now, if pregnancy occurs, another hormone, HCG (the pregnancy hormone) would start maintaining the corpus luteum. On a normal day, without pregnancy, the corpus luteum disintegrates into tiny scar tissues after some days. And that leads to the end of your luteal phase.
But then, if you have conceived, HCG would maintain your corpus luteum. With that, your “luteal phase” would continue, and your menses would not come. This is because the corpus luteum would continue to produce progesterone for another 10 weeks.
After 10 weeks, the placenta would take over the production of progesterone. This would continue that way too you give birth to your baby. Progesterone levels will be on the rise throughout pregnancy.
If your luteal phase lasts for shorter than ten days, then it is short. This means that the corpus luteum is not staying long enough to thicken your endometrium. This would make implantation difficult even if conception occurs.
A prolonged luteal phase, on the other hand, lasting for more than 17 days, may mean that you are pregnant. But it could also mean there is some sort of hormone imbalance, such as PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome).
How To Know If Long Luteal Phase Indicates Pregnancy
The first thing to do if your luteal phase is long is to look for pregnancy signs. These are the indicators:
1. Implantation bleeding
If you are expecting your period, but spotting shows up instead, you may assume it’s just a light period. But it might be implantation bleeding. It is usually an early pregnancy sign.
But then, don’t jump to conclusions yet. Watch out for what would happen next. If your period then starts later, and there is full flow, you probably aren’t pregnant. But if your period refuses to show up still, you might have taken in.
2. Tender or sore breasts
Hormonal changes in early pregnancy make your breast fuller and tender. Many women know this to be a pregnancy sign. This is often because pregnancy hormones signal your body to supply more blood volume to your breast in preparation for breastfeeding.
But then, heavy and tender breasts may also be a PMS (premenstrual) sign. So you’ve got to know how your normal PMS signs are. That way you can easily notice any differences. If the tenderness feels different and your period is late, then it might be pregnancy.
3. Fatigue and exhaustion
If you notice signs of unusual exhaustion and fatigue, you might be pregnant. Fatigue and exhaustion are common in the first trimester (3 months) of pregnancy. This is often due to the increase in blood production and hormone fluctuations.
But you should rule out other causes of fatigue. These include stress, anxiety, and sleeplessness, among others. Extreme stress can even cause a delay in your period. So if you are stressed out trying for pregnancy, you may need to start taking things easy.
None of these signs is isolated. They go hand-in-hand. But the surest thing to do is carry out a pregnancy test. That will rule out any doubt and tell you for sure if you are already pregnant. But then, it is still good and helpful to know and be sensitive to change in your reproductive cycle.
How About The Short Luteal Phase?
If your luteal phase is short, it could mean that you have a defect called LPD (luteal phase defect). This occurs when your ovary is not producing enough progesterone. Or, it could also be that your endometrium is not responding to progesterone the way it should.
If you have LPD, it might be difficult to get pregnant or to carry a pregnancy to term. Women with LPD often suffer miscarriages and infertility issues.
Aside from these conditions, certain lifestyle factors seem to also contribute to a shortened luteal phase. These include smoking.
If you have a long luteal phase, first check for signs of pregnancy. If there is no pregnancy, you should see the doctor for proper evaluation. However, a short luteal phase does not indicate pregnancy. It is often due to a disorder or poor lifestyle choices.