Although this is the final portion of the menstrual cycle, it usually forms around half of your cycle length in women with regular cycles. The luteal phase immediately follows ovulation. The ruptured follicle that the egg was released from develops into the Corpus Luteum, which secretes progesterone, and the lining of the uterus thickens.
If the egg has been fertilised, everything is prepared for implantation and ready to support a pregnancy. If the egg is unfertilised, or implantation is unsuccessful, the Corpus Luteum will begin to break down and menstruation will start.
A sufficient luteal phase is essential for establishment of a healthy pregnancy – a luteal phase length of 11-14 days is necessary to allow for implantation to occur and the Corpus Luteum will start producing progesterone to support the growing embryo until the placenta forms.
There are two phases to the Luteal phase. The first portion is immediately following ovulation, and the highs of progesterone are still pumping in your system. Your metabolic demands are higher in this phase so you may find yourself feeling hungrier – your body does need extra calories in this time, so be kind and listen to these nutritional demands.
The second half of the luteal phase is when many women may notice premenstrual symptoms such as fluid retention, tender breasts, constipation or loose stools, and those infamous mood swings, you may also notice increased fatigue in this phase.
Investments made in your cycle health in the forms of supplements and stress management, mindful movement in the follicular and ovulatory phase pay off in the luteal and menstrual phases – if you have had a stressful and demanding follicular phase without supporting your health, you may find that your PMS symptoms are particularly marked. You may also note that health issues that are present throughout your cycle are particularly exacerbated during the pre-menstrual portion of your luteal phase – this phenomenon is known as premenstrual magnification, and can be a helpful indicator of underlying autoimmune and chronic health conditions when charting and tracking symptoms.