The scheme of events in a typical menstrual cycle involves follicle maturation, ovulation and luteal phase wherein the uterine lining is prepared for embryo implantation. The simplest definition of luteal phase is “the last 12-14 days of menstrual cycle” before the onset of periods. Successful pregnancy requires a healthy start and endometrium provides the first life support to the developing embryo. A thin insufficiently developed or early disintegrating endometrial lining leads to unsuccessful implantation seen as early miscarriage. Progesterone also known as gestation hormone is the key hormone involved in preparing a good three layered endometrial lining considered optimal for embryo implantation. Low progesterone levels make up a thin endometrial lining that leads to spotting in between periods and shorter cycles. Medical community unfortunately does not have a consensus on the fact that inadequate progesterone levels contribute to recurrent miscarriages, however it is generally observed that low progesterone levels do pose problems in getting pregnant. Doctors ascertain luteal defect by few standard tests like a) estimating progesterone levels during luteal phase b) studying the endometrial lining by ultrasound and biopsy  c) checking beta 3 integrin levels  and d) estimating FSH and LH hormonal levels.
Figure: Typical phases of a menstrual cycle ( Source: http://kids.britannica.com)
Luteal phase defect symptoms
- • Short cycles
- • Luteal phase of less than 10 days – generally detected in monitored cycles when patient knows when she ovulated
- • Low progesterone levels
- • Spotting in between periods – light bleeding as endometrial lining sheds
- • Difficulty in getting pregnant
- • Early miscarriages
An important note of caution here is that only when patient presents these symptoms for three successive cycles she is suspected to be having a luteal phase defect.
What causes Luteal phase defect?
- • Low progesterone levels – The levels of progesterone peak during the luteal phase in a normal cycle to prepare a cushiony endometrial lining for embryo. Lower levels of progesterone lead to thin endometrial lining insufficient for embryo implantation and support during initial pregnancy period.
- • Anovulation – cycles that do not make mature follicles are called anovulatory cycles. The maturing follicles also produce progesterone and in absence of follicles the natural progesterone levels decline.
- • Defective thyroid function- thyroid hormone makes the precursor of progesterone and lower levels of thyroid lead to lower levels of progesterone.
- • High stress- stress induces production of “ stress hormone” (cortisol) , this in turn suppresses progesterone production
How to correct luteal phase defect?
If you are diagnosed with a luteal phase problem, there are several steps you may want to explore before relying on the conventional medical treatment of Clomid, HCG injections, progesterone injections, pills or suppositories
What can you do?
- • Vitex (Chaste Tree)
- It helps the body to increase its own production of luteinizing hormone (promoting ovulation to occur) which in turns boosts progesterone levels during the luteal phase of the cycle.
- • Vit B 6
- Vit B 6 also helps to increase progesterone levels. Suggested usage is 50mg up to 100mg daily. Make sure to use B6 in conjunction with a B complex or multivitamin as all the Vitamin Bs work synergistically.
- • Eliminate sugar
- Progesterone “opposes” oestrogen, which means by lowering oestrogen, your body will produce more progesterone, which is required to lengthen the luteal phase. A study found that by reducing sugar by 60%, it decreases oestrogen by 25% within 3 weeks.
- • Diet
- Incorporating nuts, green leafy vegetables, foods rich in vitamin C and essential fatty acids will promote hormone balance and manage luteal phase defect.
What can Natural Fertility Australia do?
We can help you to balance your hormones naturally by making sure your oestrogen and progesterone are working in perfect synergy. We are not prescribing synthetic or natural hormones to achieve this. This is done by taking natural medicines to stimulate your body to release the correct amount of hormones.
We can also improve your body’s thyroid function if this is the cause of the imbalance.
Evelin Liddell is a Homeopath and Fertility Specialist with over 15 years experience in the natural health field mainly working with women and children. She has trained with some of the biggest names in the natural health field.
Too many couples are misinformed about their options of resolving fertility issues. In most cases natural solutions can be found to help make their dream of parenthood a reality. Evelin enjoys helping couples along this special journey of reclaiming their natural fertility and fulfilling their dream of having a baby.
Evelin also has a special interest in nutrition and is currently the only metabolic balance® coach in Queensland, Australia.