Detecting Ovulation Defects: Explaining the Luteal Phase and the Corpus Luteum

Page content

Detecting Ovulation Defects

To aid in fertility, women must be vigilant to their body, and pay particular attention to clues that indicate they are in ovulation- mode! Their cervical mucus is usually sticky and clear but at mid cycle it is stretchy, in abundance and has a consistency of an egg white, which means ovulation will happen in approximately 36 hours. Ovulation test kits are also readily available at drugstores for purchasing.

The term luteal phase is coined after the corpus luteum, which is Latin for yellow body. The corpus luteum is a structure that grows on the surface of the ovary, where a mature egg was released at ovulation. This is the time period calculated from the day after ovulation and runs through the remainder of a woman’s monthly cycle - called the luteal phase. It usually lasts between 12 – 16 days, and will not vary by more than a day. This part of the cycle starts at ovulation and then ends on the day before the next menstrual period.

This period of time is when a woman produces progesterone, and her temperature then increases. This higher temperature acts as an incubator, which is important to mature a fertilized egg, if conception occurs. The corpus luteum makes progesterone to prepare the body for pregnancy and a luteal phase must be at least 10 days long for implantation to occur. Therefore, a woman with a shortened luteal phase is a cause for fertility problems.

Even if ovulation does not happen at the normal time period, knowing the length of the luteal phase can help a woman to know exactly when the menstrual period is due. This reduces the belief of those say they always have “late periods”. Women can chart their luteal phase on their calendar and they can then realize that perhaps it is their ovulation being delayed, that they were not actually late. The average length is 14 days for most women, but the only way to determine the exact length of a luteal phase is through hormone-specific blood tests.

In a pregnant woman, during the luteal phase, the fertilized egg will travel from the fallopian tube and into the uterus for implantation. A luteal phase which is anything under 10 days it is considered a luteal phase defect. Some physicians think that if the luteal phase is under 12 days, that it could be a problem. An early miscarriage is a risk for when there is conception for women with a luteal phase defect. This defect can cause the uterine lining to break down, bringing on menstrual bleeding, which then causes the early miscarriage. The main cause for a luteal phase defect is low progesterone levels due to poor follicle production, premature demise of the corpus luteum or failure of the uterine line to respond to normal levels of progesterone. There are several ways to correct this type of defect, either through over-the-counter remedies and/or with prescription drugs.