The Luteal Phase: What You Need to Know
Some people believe there are only two parts of a woman’s cycle—the time you get your period and the time where you could get pregnant, but your body is much more complex than that! There are indeed four different phases of your cycle you go through every month. The menstrual phase (your period), the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase. In this article, we’ll walk you through what the luteal phase is and how you can take advantage of the luteal phase in your cycle each month.
To understand what the luteal phase is you must first understand how a woman’s cycle each month works in tandem with the other phases.
When you get your period (which is day 1 of your cycle) your body is shedding the lining of your uterus that would prepare itself for a potential baby.
Then your body enters the follicular phase where estrogen climbs and begins to reline your uterus.
Generally, at the midpoint of your cycle, your body releases an egg that could be fertilized during ovulation.
After you ovulate, you enter the luteal phase that if the egg was fertilized, your uterus would be preparing itself for a safe place for the baby. Pregnancy begins once a fertilized egg attaches to the womb. If the egg is not fertilized, it breaks apart and you begin your period again.
Woof. Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk more about what this phase means and how you can take advantage of it!
What is the luteal phase?
The luteal phase is designed to prepare your body for a potential pregnancy creating a safe environment for an egg. When ovulation occurs, the follicle that contained the egg transforms into a corpus luteum. At the beginning of this phase, your body produces the hormones, estrogen and progesterone. If the egg was not fertilized, toward the end of the this phase your hormones begin to drop causing pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) which then starts menstruation.
Some things you may be experiencing during the luteal phase:
Lower energy levels
Your energy hormone, estrogen, is starting to plunge which may also cause some pre-PMS. The other hormone being released is progesterone, which slows you down causing fatigue and fogginess. Some women note to have bouts of sadness and crying. These women are more sensitive to the progesterone hormone.
You will start to retain water more during this phase before your period.
You may crave more comfort foods that are high in fat and calories.
Your appetite will be greater and you are going to be hungrier more often. This is because your body thinks you might have gotten pregnant during ovulation, so the hormone, progesterone that’s released during the luteal phase, wants you to eat enough for two.
Where is the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle?
This phase starts just after ovulation and ends when your period begins. You could say it’s the fourth part of your cycle. The luteal phase begins as the egg that was released during ovulation starts traveling down the fallopian tube.
What is the length of the luteal phase?
Generally, it lasts anywhere from 11 to 17 days. In most women, the it lasts 12 to 14 days.
If it is less than 10 days, a short luteal phase doesn’t give the uterine lining a chance to grow and develop enough support for growing a baby. If you notice this in your cycle, contact your doctor.
On the other hand, a long luteal phase could be due to a hormone imbalance or a long lapse since you ovulated could mean that you’re pregnant.
How do I take advantage?
Did you know that you burn 30% more fat when you exercise during the luteal phase? This is thanks to a combination of estrogen and progesterone making your body more efficient at using fat for fuel. So, in the end, you may eat more due to your hormone levels, but it all balances itself out with the 30% more fat burn.
Our entire female cycle revolves around the potential of us reproducing. Everything about our bodies starts to make sense the sooner we realize this aspect of our female makeup. Although these different phases of our cycles can be confusing and oftentimes mood-swinging, the sooner we learn the sooner we can take advantage of our cycles and make our periods smarter.