Is a Short Luteal Phase Affecting Your Fertility?

A short luteal phase or luteal phase defect may affect a woman’s fertility. If you have been having problems trying to conceive then it’s worth discussing the possibility of a short luteal phase with your doctor.

What is a Short Luteal Phase?
The luteal phase is the latter part of your menstrual cycle. It occurs after ovulation and should last around 14 days. After ovulation, a woman’s body releases progesterone to prepare the body for pregnancy. In women with a short luteal phase, the hormone levels are generally not as they should be. Without enough progesterone to prepare for the fertilized egg, there can be no pregnancy leading to either miscarriage or early menstruation.

Risk factors for short luteal phase include:

  • Anorexia
  • Excessive exercise
  • Obesity
  • Medical conditions including endometriosis, thyroid problems, elevated prolactin levels, and PCOS

Many women who have a short luteal phase don’t experience any symptoms, which is why it is sometimes called an invisible cause of female fertility issues. Signs that you may have a short luteal phase include:

  • Light bleeding (known as spotting) between periods
  • Shortened menstrual cycles
  • Not becoming pregnant despite trying
  • Miscarriage

Diagnosing Short Luteal Phase
If you are charting your menstrual cycle to determine when you are ovulating, you may notice that your luteal phase is shorter. If that part of your cycle is 11 days or shorter, then you should share your findings with your doctor. Short luteal phase length is more accurate than checking a day 21 progesterone level in order to assess the adequacy of the luteal phase.

Dr Shahryar Kavoussi, a leading reproductive endocrinologist (specialist in female fertility), has long recognized the importance of evaluating the length of the luteal phase. “The luteal phase length is calculated by counting from the day of luteinizing hormone surge (typically determined via urinary ovulation predictor kits) to the first day of the next menstrual period.”

Dr Kavoussi also states, “If the luteal phase is less than 11 days in length, it can be considered a short luteal phase and progesterone supplementation can be used in subsequent luteal phases in order to lengthen the luteal phase and theoretically improve the chances that a fertilized oocyte can implant within the endometrial lining effectively.”

If you suspect you may have short luteal phase defect, make an appointment to discuss it further and seek the right treatment with a specialist in female fertility.