What is the luteal phase anyway?
The luteal phase is the phase immediately after ovulation in which your body prepares either for pregnancy or for your next period. The start of the luteal phase is also characterized by the post-ovulatory rise in your basal body temperature, which you can use as an indicator of whether you have ovulated, and which remains elevated until the start of your next period. With our smart femSense Sensor Patch, you can easily detect this rise in temperature and know exactly when you have ovulated.
How long does the luteal phase last?
The luteal phase lasts around 14 days and ends immediately before your next menstruation. Good to know: If it lasts less than 10 days, it is too short, and your body may not build up enough uterine lining to support a potential pregnancy. However, if it lasts significantly longer than 17 days, this may be due to hormonal disorders such as PCOS. That’s why it’s definitely advisable to keep an eye on the duration of your luteal phase when tracking your cycle. Simply count the days from your ovulation to the start of your next period.
What exactly happens during the luteal phase?
During ovulation, the follicle ruptures to release the egg. This ruptured follicle closes again in the luteal phase after ovulation and forms the so-called corpus luteum (hence the name luteal phase). If the hormone estrogen is mainly present around ovulation, the corpus luteum now produces more of the hormone progesterone.
This progesterone, which is produced by the corpus luteum, prepares the uterus for potential embryo implantation. Therefore, the lining of the uterus thickens and fills with nutrients and fluids so that it can nourish an embryo. The mucous membrane in the cervix also thickens at the same time, making it harder for bacteria or sperm to enter the uterus. This is because fertilization has already taken place at this stage.
So, you see, progesterone ensures that your uterus is “ready to rumble” for the implantation of a fertilized egg. However, if no egg implants, the corpus luteum stops producing progesterone after approx. 12-16 days and regresses. This “progesterone standstill” now triggers your period, and the excess mucous membrane that was built up during the luteal phase is shed during your period.
As already mentioned, estrogen levels fall after ovulation. This and the regression of the corpus luteum before your period can also lead to physical side effects. Your physical energy decreases significantly (it’s not you, it’s the hormones!) and towards the end of your cycle, you may experience premenstrual symptoms such as bloating, irritability, mood swings, sensitive breasts, water retention, or cravings. PMS is actually quite common. It is estimated that at least 3 out of 4 women suffer from some of these symptoms to a greater or lesser extent.
So much for the biology. To help you get through your luteal phase, we have put together 5 tips to help you understand yourself and your body better.
1. Do administrative things & household chores
The special ratio of estrogen and progesterone in this phase causes you to perceive things around you differently. For example, you start to give more priority to administrative details. You may also notice that you are a little more ‘domestic’ than usual during this phase (you can compare this to the potential implantation of the egg during this phase). It is therefore the ideal time to take care of activities such as tidying up your home, doing bulk shopping, etc.
2. Shift down a gear & set your focus more inwards: Self-care hello!
As your energy wanes during the luteal phase, it’s a good tip to focus your remaining energy inwards. Pay even more attention to yourself and your inner peace than in other cycle phases. Now is the right time for self-care, be it a long bath, a good book or movie, or a visit to the spa, treat yourself to something nice! Since your social capacities are not as high as usual during this time, try to withdraw a little during the luteal phase and not make too many social appointments so that you don’t feel unnecessarily exhausted.
3. Gentle exercise
If you have less energy, everything feels much more strenuous. You notice this particularly when you exercise. So, if you’ve ever wondered why certain training sessions were suddenly more strenuous than usual, it may well be that you were in your luteal phase. That’s why it’s a good idea to adapt your training to your cycle. For the luteal phase, this specifically means that you should reduce the intensity of your training during this phase, as your strength and endurance performance is lower than usual. Try to focus on more moderate training during this phase of your cycle, such as calmer yoga or Pilates sessions, stretching, or lighter cross-trainer sessions, and don’t take it too much to heart if your training isn’t going as well as usual. Again, it’s your hormones, not you!
4. Power foods
Food cravings are also quite normal during the luteal phase, and you may notice that you are hungrier than usual. However, did you know that there are certain foods that can help you get through the luteal phase more easily? B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, and fiber are particularly essential. These nutrients can minimize sugar cravings, which can be a side effect of the progesterone surge. A calcium-magnesium combination, such as that found in leafy greens, can furthermore reduce the effects of water retention. Healthy, natural sugars also help with the drop in estrogen and can make you less irritable. One of the best ways to achieve this is to roast or bake vegetables, which increases the sugar concentration and makes the vegetables taste sweeter. Also, make sure you get enough complex carbohydrates to stabilize serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain and avoid mood swings.
5. Patience is key
Last but not least, we would like to give you a little mantra for your luteal phase: Patience is key. Try not to be so hard on yourself and be patient. During the luteal phase, you experience a lot of hormonal changes, which can unfortunately affect your general well-being and energy levels. Focus on yourself and on things that are good for you during this phase. And don’t forget, the next follicular phase is sure to come.
Do you have any good tips for the luteal phase that we have forgotten to mention? Then let us know on our Instagram.
Vitti, Alisa: Woman Code (2013). 150-152, 243