When you are trying to conceive, it can seem like there is a whole new world of terms and definitions that previously escaped your grasp. Now, however, is the time to bring yourself up to speed.
Whether your doctor has mentioned it or you have read about it on a fertility forum, understanding your luteal phase is crucial to conceiving so you should get to know it a little better.
After ovulation, the remains of the dominant follicle (that released the egg), transforms into the corpus luteum. The corpus luteum starts to produce significant amounts of hormones, particularly progesterone. The hormones maintain the thickened lining of the uterus, waiting for a fertilized egg to implant. If implantation does not occur, the corpus luteum withers and dies which causes progesterone levels to drop, this then causes the uterus lining to break up resulting in menstruation, and so a new cycle begins.
Your luteal phase begins on the day after you ovulate, and runs through the rest of your menstrual cycle, ending the day before your next period. The luteal phase normally lasts between 10 and 16 days, with 14 days being the average. Your follicular phase can often vary in length from cycle to cycle; by contrast, your luteal phase will be fairly consistent from cycle to cycle.
If you have been frequenting the online Trying to Conceive (TTC) forums, you may have encountered the acronym, “DPO”. This is another way of referring to the luteal phase and it literally means Days Past Ovulation. When the luteal phase begins, your basal body temperature increases in order to provide a more fertile environment for a fertilized egg.
For most women, the luteal phase usually last 14 days, but anywhere from 10 to 16 days is considered normal. If yours happens to be shorter than 10 days, it may be too short for successful implantation to occur. A luteal phase defect or luteal insufficiency occurs when the luteal phase is shorter than normal or when the lining of the uterus is not prepared for implantation. Women who are trying to conceive that have a short luteal phase are often treated with progesterone therapy, and some women have found success with other natural remedies.
If you do not know whether you have an average or short luteal phase, start by assuming the normal 14 day average. Many women ovulate 14 days after they get their period, but it does not always happen this way. Track your ovulation with OvulationCalendar.com or by charting your basal body temperature. Once you know when you have ovulated, you can start tracing your luteal phase. The number of days from the day after ovulation to the day before your next period is the number of days in your luteal phase.
Implantation will only occur when an egg becomes fertilized, so if sperm does not penetrate the egg within 12 to 24 hours of ovulation, implantation will not occur during the cycle. If the egg does become fertilized, it starts dividing and making the slow journey from the fallopian tube to the uterus (about three to four days). Once the fertilized egg reaches the uterus, implantation begins. This is where the fertilized egg begins burrowing into the plush uterine wall. Some women notice slight bleeding or spotting at this time called implantation bleeding.