Understanding how the body prepares for a pregnancy is important to understanding your fertility. Many patients ask us “what is the luteal phase?” It occurs during the second half of a woman’s menstrual cycle after ovulation and ends when you get your next period. It is an important part of your overall fertility if you are having trouble getting pregnant,
What happens during the luteal phase?
There is a complex crosstalk, checks and balances between the pituitary gland, the ovaries and the uterus. All with specific roles and algorithms set in place which are guided by the signals laid forward by each component. They distinctly work separately and in concert.
With successful ovulation of the egg from the follicle begins, this phase of preparing the endometrium to accept a potential embryo. What once held this precious egg (the follicle) now gains new purpose. It evolves to begin the process of making progesterone (Pro-gestational – a bit of foreshadowing). The once follicle is rebranded and called “corpus luteum.” It is called so because it appears yellow on tissue examination.
Why is the luteal phase important for pregnancy?
This corpus luteum is the workhorse of progesterone production, maintaining the potential pregnancy (well into the 8th week of pregnancy), until the placental can take over as the progesterone-producing powerhouse. Insufficient progesterone production, or cessation of progesterone production promotes instability in the endometrial and resultant endometrial shedding. When an embryo is not implanted, the life of the corpus luteum is shorter. The presence and then lack of the progesterone, and the signals to maintain it promote the instability. In a woman with monthly cycles, we call this cyclic shedding menstruation, or a period. It really signifies the beginning of the follicle (and egg) stimulation and preparation for the potential of implantation. For patients who are fertility-minded, it can represent another cycle not generating pregnancy.
If you are having trouble getting pregnant, we can help. Please contact us for a complimentary initial consult with one of our physicians. We are here to help you start your family.