Two of the most common questions I get are how do I lengthen your luteal phase and how to lengthen your cycle in general. Great questions indeed because I am personally familiar with the issue of having a too-short luteal phase and the suffering it causes me and the people around me (hee hee).
What is the Luteal Phase?
The third phase of a woman’s menstrual cycle is known as the Luteal Phase – the time between the day after ovulation occurs and the day before the start of your period. It is during this time when progesterone rises in your cycle and it’s also when fertilization and implantation occurs (if one is trying to get pregnant).
Once ovulation occurs, progesterone rises thanks to the corpus luteum on the ovary, which is the temporary endocrine gland that forms from the follicle that released the egg. The health of the follicle and corpus luteum plays a big role in how much progesterone you produce.
And how much progesterone you produce will determine how long your luteal phase lasts. This is because progesterone holds your uterine lining in place. Once it starts to drop, this signals to your endometrium that it’s time to go, and you get your period!
How long should the Luteal Phase be?
The luteal phase is the longest phase of your cycle and on average is between 10-16 days. If it’s consistently less than 10 days (3 months or more), you have what is known as a short luteal phase. This is often referred to as Luteal Phase Defect, which is a common cause of fertility trouble for women.
This is because a fertilized egg can take about 10-15 days after fertilization to actually make it to the uterus and implant into the uterine lining. A luteal phase less than 10 days long does not give the egg a sufficient amount of time to make it to the uterus. This can result in early miscarriage.
Second, the uterine lining needs a sufficient amount of progesterone to make it nice and cushy for the fertilized egg to implant. If it isn’t thick enough, the egg can’t implant and gets lost in early miscarriage.
What causes a short Luteal Phase?
Naturally, any disruption in your luteal phase can be cause for concern. Not only does it affect your menstrual cycle on a whole, it ultimately can affect your overall health and fertility.
Luckily, a short luteal phase is an issue that can be easily addressed for most women through diet and natural therapies.
There are a couple of reasons behind a shorter than normal luteal phase but the most common is low progesterone. As I said, progesterone production is very much determined by the health of the follicle from which the egg was released.
Progesterone is needed for building and preserving the uterine lining during the luteal phase and maintaining a pregnancy during the first trimester. If progesterone does not elevate enough after ovulation or if it drops too soon before your period, you may have a luteal phase defect (LPD).
This also affects a lot of other aspects of your health too. I refer to progesterone as the “keep calm and carry on” hormone because it is calming to your nervous system throughout the pre-menstrual phase. It’s also helps to keep estrogen in check, which if it becomes dominant over progesterone can lead to heavier periods, longer periods and shorter overall menstrual cycles (luteal phase defect in full effect).
What are the main causes of low progesterone?
- Stress (oh yes!) – When we are chronically stressed, our adrenal glands produce too much cortisol. You might not think there is a connection between cortisol and progesterone but they are intimately linked. Cortisol’s production comes first before all other hormone production because it is a “life and death” hormone. Cortisol and progesterone compete for the same hormone production pathway, so unfortunately cortisol always wins because the body prioritizes its production over progesterone (which is only needed for reproduction and not survival).
- Ovulation from an unhealthy follicle – after ovulation occurs, the follicle in the ovary becomes the corpus luteum, which produces progesterone. Essentially, ovulation is the catalyst for progesterone production so it’s safe to say that if you’re not ovulating regularly or your follicle isn’t healthy, there will be inadequate progesterone production.
- Low thyroid – if your thyroid is not producing adequate thyroid hormone, you will not make enough progesterone. The reason for this is that you need a certain amount of thyroid hormone to make pregnenolone (the mother hormone to progesterone) which then makes progesterone. Without proper thyroid hormone, progesterone production can suffer. This is why low thyroid (hypothyroid) is linked to heavier and more painful periods.
Other issues and conditions linked to low progesterone:
- Endometriosis – an inflammatory disease in which tissue that is similar to the kind of tissue that grows in the uterus grows outside of the uterus (instead of just on the inside). Studies have found that women with endometriosis tend to have lower progesterone levels or a short luteal phase. Please read my in-depth blog post on endometriosis.
- Anxiety and panic attacks – progesterone acts like a natural valium, in that it helps to keep us calm, so it makes sense that low progesterone may cause anxiety and even panic attacks in some women.
- PMS – this is of course related to #2, but PMS includes over 100 different physical and emotional symptoms that are debilitating for millions of women each month. Read my in-depth post on causes and solutions for PMS.
So, now that you are all in the know about low progesterone and short luteal phases, you probably want to know what to do about them!
Luteal Phase Defect/Low Progesterone Solutions:
First, if you feel that you might be suffering from low progesterone, I recommend taking this at home Progesterone test to confirm if your levels are off. And be sure to use coupon code Hormones20 to get 20% off all tests at Lets Get Checked.
If your progesterone levels are low, your diet is the foundation for optimal hormonal health so you always want to start there. Supplements and botanicals that are proven effective are another awesome addition to your health protocol. I’ve also mentioned some additional practices you can implement in addition to the food and supplements.
#1 Vitamin C – this is the only vitamin that has been shown to increase progesterone levels in women. Foods rich in vitamin C are bell peppers, broccoli, brussel sprouts, papaya, strawberries and oranges. The daily recommended dosage is a measly 75mg but you should be aiming for 750mg/day of this vitamin. If you choose to supplement, make sure you get a high quality product. My favorite options are Seeking Health Vitamin C powder or Livon Labs Liposomal Vitamin C. Vitamin C is water soluble so any excess will be excreted.
#2 Eat your leafy green veggies – kale, collard greens, spinach, swiss chard and mustard greens should be an everyday indulgence! Leafy green vegetables are high in the B-complex vitamins and many minerals which are essential for hormone regulation. They are also super high in magnesium and calcium, which helps to raise low progesterone. Focus on getting 2-4 cups of cooked and raw leafies into your diet each day. Trust me you will quickly see and feel a difference if you get this amount of greens into your life! 🙂
#3 Essential fatty acids – in particular, Omega-3 fatty acids. Good sources of omega-3’s are wild-caught salmon and halibut, sardines, walnuts and chia seeds. I also highly recommend Rosita Real Foods Cod Liver Oil (I prefer the liquid over the capsules) or Designs for Health OmegaAvail.
#4 Adequate dietary cholesterol – All steroid hormones including progesterone, are synthesized from pregnenolone, which is derived from cholesterol. So you want to make sure you have adequate consumption of dietary cholesterol from foods such as organic grass fed animal protein, pastured eggs and grass-fed butter.
#1 Vitex (Chasteberry) – a native to Greece and Italy, vitex has been used for centuries to treat a wide range of female health conditions. Numerous studies show that it helps to restore normal progesterone levels by increasing the production of luteinizing hormone which prompts ovulation, ultimately increasing progesterone production. Vitex is available in capsules or tincture and the standard dosage is 1000mg/day. I like Gaia Herbs Vitex Berry. You can read my blog post about whether Vitex is right for you here.
#2 Saffron – yes, the same spice that you use in the kitchen. Saffron has been found to be effective in addressing symptoms of low progesterone such as painful periods, PMS and even depression. All you need is just 15mg/day of this bright yellow beauty. That is basically just a tiny sprinkle on one meal.
#3 Vitamin B6 – While the B-Complex vitamins have a profound effect on hormonal health, it is vitamin B6 that has been found to be most effective on the luteal phase. I recommend you get yourself a B Complex with the active forms of B2, B6, B9 and B12. I love Thorne Research Basic B Complex which contains all of these.
Remember, active forms of B vitamins (folate, B6 and B12) are necessary for people with MTHFR mutations. Please read my post on MTHFR here.
#4 Selenium – Selenium is a potent antioxidant that helps to protect the thyroid from heavy metal exposure. It is also involved in T4 to T3 conversion and helps to decrease the antibodies that are seen in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. A healthy thyroid is highly beneficial for fertility in both women and men. For women, selenium is seen in very high quantities in the follicles, where it appears to be required for healthy follicle development. I recommend Thorne Research Selenomethionine selenium supplement.
#5 Phosphatidylserine – Yeah, how the heck do you even pronounce that one right? Good thing you don’t have to be a good speller to reap the benefits of this phospholipid. There is now quite a bit of evidence showing that phosphatidylserine significantly dampens the effect of external stress on the HPA axis (hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis – which determines how you handle stress), and helps you manage stress-related disorders. I recommend about 400-800mg a day of PS but start at 400mg and work your way up if you. Integrative Therapeutics Phosphatidylserine is the one I recommend.
#1 Charting your period – I highly recommend using the Fertility Awareness Method to chart your cycle. This will show you how long your luteal phase is in each cycle and help you determine if there is an issue. You might also consider buying a basal thermometer like the Wink or the the Daysy or the Ava bracelet which can help you determine if/when you are ovulating and if your cycles are regular.
#2 Acupuncture – there are a number of reasons why acupuncture works to smooth out hormonal imbalances. Many women report regulated cycles and increased fertility after doing weekly acupuncture sessions. I recommend an acupuncture session once a week for at least three months to see if it works for you. If you can’t get to an acupuncturist or you don’t like needles, check out Aimee Raupp’s free Fertility Enhancing Acupressure Guide. Aimee is the fertility acupuncturist extraordinaire and this guide includes a worksheet and video discussing location, function and the emotional correlation of each acupressure point and is a great way to regulate your hormones and optimize your fertility from the comfort of your own home.
#3 Hang out with your girlfriends – spending time with your gal pals reduces perceived stress and lowers cortisol levels. As I mentioned above, lowering cortisol is the key to boosting progesterone production. So make it a priority every week to get together with your peeps! Taking care of yourself should be of utmost importance.
I recommend implementing foods, supplements and practices over a period of 3-6 cycles. You may notice changes sooner but on average, women require this amount of time to see positive effects. When progesterone is in balance all is well in the world. You have regular periods, your cycles are anywhere from 25-35 days, there is no spotting or flooding, your weight remains stable throughout your cycle, and you are naturally fertile. Yay!
0 thoughts on “Lengthen your luteal phase”
Really good info! I have seen improvements in my cycle by following a protocol by Beckie- it focuses on alleviating PMDD by supplementing with Potassium.
Now I’ll be focusing on lengthening my luteal phase. I’m going to try following your advice here. Thank you for your time and effort in putting this all together!
I’ve noticed my normally super regular cycle has been a mess during quarantine and pandemic. Any tips on getting it back on track? I’m wondering too if being isolated (away from other women) impacts hormone regularity. How do we get ourselves sorted out after such a challenging time? Thank you!
I would also love to hear your thoughts on this. My normally regular cycle is less so now, and it feels like one more thing to stress about.
Hi! I am wondering about the safety of Vitex and Phosphatidylserine during pregnancy. Could you provide me recommendations regarding this, or a good resource? Thanks so much!
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Excellent information, thank you! Can you please write something about possible reasons for a short follicular phase? I fall into this category, usually with 10 days in follicular phase, but 14 days luteal – meaning the entire cycle is only 24 days. Would be much appreciated.
Hi Rati! Nicole will be covering this topic in more detail in her book, which will be released later in the year! She will also consider a blog post. Thanks so much for your comment!
Hi, when should you start taking the vitex? Day one or after ovulation? Is it ok to take with vitamin b6 and prenatal vitamins?
Hi, should these things be eaten from ovulation onwards (to extend luteal phase) or for the entire cycle?
Great informative read!! I have not seen supplements listed with effect anywhere else for this subject. Love the chart of all the hormones! I wondered if magnesium plays a role? As something that has a calming effect, it seems maybe it would aid in lengthening the luteal phase too? In addition to the apps you mentioned, there’s a basal body temperature app, Natural Cycles that could help chart fertility too.
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Hi, thank you so much for the article! I’ve found it really helpful! I came off the pill around 3 months ago and my cycle length is around 21 days. I ovulate on cd 12/13 usually which is only giving me a LP of around 8-9 days. This has been consistent over the last 3 months. Should I give my body more time to adjust? Or do you think this could be my “regular”
Hi Elizabeth! Unfortunately I can’t answer questions directly on my blog, but you can join my Know Your Flow Facebook group and any other questions you may have in there! I usually pop in once a week. 🙂 xoxo, Nicole
I really enjoyed your article. I am trying Vitex for the first time this month. My LP is 9-10 days usually with a standard 7 day period. I started the vitex on the first day of AF and my period was only 4 days long and I still feel crampy. Everything I read says vitex works slowly, but I haven’t changed anything else besides adding in a no iron multivit and dha.
Really nice article!
Thank you so much. I just found your site and have been reading through all the posts. So much helpful info! I am picking up the Taking Charge of your fertility book tomorrow! I have been meaning to for months but I just keeping thinking “this will be the month!” I have a two year old son and miscarried in June, and haven’t been able to get pregnant since. I’ve been using Vitex and working on (some days are better than others) on maintaining a good diet! My cycles are finally 34 days woohoo! But I’m still trying to nail down when exactly I am ovulating. Hoping the book helps! Thanks for all the awesome information on your site! I am sure you’ve helped so many women!
Congrats on your 34 day cycle!! That’s an awesome achievement. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog- I’m glad it’s super helpful for you! 🙂
Thanks for your interesting post! I chart with the kindara app and am wondering if my luteal phase is to short. When I have 9-10 elevated temps after the temp shift, is this also 9-10 days of the lp?
Yes, day 1 of your luteal phase is the day after ovulation or the first day of your temperature spike. (Note: Some people’s temps don’t spike until two days after ovulation so you could count it from there also). If you’ve only got 9-10 days of high temps you might have a short LP. Ideally you’d want to get it to 10-12 days.
I find it so frustrating that so many acupuncturists and non-acupuncturists recommend weekly acupuncture to treat women’s cycles.
It really depends on the acupuncturist, their training and experience, and their credentials (let’s face it the standard to get into acupuncture school is not high and it varies by state).
I have received LOTS of acupuncture in a variety of settings (community, private) with students and professionals. I recently started seeing a woman with 45 years of experience, born and raised in China, then moved to the US, trained again to practice here. She really only wants to see women once a month because she says it can be too much at times.
For me personally, and I know it varies, I have seen more change in one session than the several months of weekly acupuncture. So go figure.
had two chemical miscarriages in a raw. The second time I felt im pregnant, I cut coffee, and I took prenatal I felt painful cramping I got PPT and AF came one day early. I scheduled an appointment with Gney, and she did not care what were the reasons. I went to the hospital they said all were chemical miscarriage they did me an Ultrasound they found out some fibroids.
I Have enlarged abdomen due to the fibroids, then I started my research on the causes and natural things. I took iron with Vitami C and lately I bough Vitamin B complex and I started taking Vitamin E, D, Omega 3. I tried fertility cleansing Castro oil packs and bought as well Chastberry but did not take till recently. The doctor at the hospital put me on duphaston from 14 dpo till menstruation. Now I started to take Alchemlia( progesterone)tee wonderful since I found out that I have fiboids that means that I have may be estrogen dominance. This tee is relaxing me and I drink only decaffeinated coffee one cup per day. 3 days before my last cycle I noticed watery black blood and some tinny black blood clots which lasted 3 days. My period is now 29 instead of 25 . I kept searching for the causes of my 2 miscarriages; I found out that they may be due to the thinness of the Uterus lining I checked those ultrasound results I read the Uterus lining is 5 mm. I did the ultrasound 6 dpo what is the best time to measure the Uterus lining?
I will continue the cleansing and I will add fertility massage as well hopefully that will work
I’ve reached out to you via email, so check your inbox and let me know if you received my message! 🙂
There are a lot of incredible questions on here, but it’s so much easier to get clear answers in our Know Your Flow Facebook group. Just paste the following link into your browser:http://tinyurl.com/pkflo6r
There are tons of women in there who’ve had similar experiences and it’s much more private. I also have a free Period Survival Guide for you here: http://tinyurl.com/nh7y55g
How do you feel about progesterone creams?
I feel that any hormonal supplementation should be a last resort. We must first try and heal our bodies naturally through nutrition and lifestyle changes. 🙂
Okay, so my last cycle was 29 days, my period lasted 6 days and today is day 10 of my cycle and my Lh peaked on my ovulation tester. Last night I tested and it showed low (my doctor recommended Clear Blue Ovulation tester, which shows low, high and peak). I did take Clomid this month and started on day 4 of my cycle. Any idea of what is going on.
Hi! Thanks for the good info…
I am wondering if you have any idea on my particular situation: I have a very short luteal phase…sometimes only 5 days from Ov…and then in addition a strange period, it comes for 2 or 3 days, goes away….and then comes again for an additional 2 or 3 days…then I spot for an additional 2 or 3 days. My “period” usually lasts up to 10 days. I then ovulate on time…around the 14 day mark (not long after my period ends though since it is so long) and then about 5 or 6 days later my period starts all over again. In that same weird cycle.
Oddly enough…I have extremely low cortisol levels too. Under 4…which seems to be in direct contrast to the facts that high cortisol levels can shorten your luteal cycle.
I’m so confused and no one seems to be able to help me get on track. Any ideas?
I was just wondering if a luteal phase problem will affect maintaining pregnancy or just achieving pregnancy?
I have just suffered a miscarriage and am wondering if this was the cause.
I hope not as my doctor is not being supportive.
Kristy I suggest finding another doctor that will work with you. The answer is yes to both questions. Baby dust and blessings to you.
I just have one question… how fast does B6 work to lengthen the LP?
My doctor requested hormone checks for the end of my cycle and I just remembered starting B6 a week before the tests took place.
thanks for the great article. i was wondering whether vitex is safe to take in addition to chinese herbs (provided by acupuncturist who is also a herbalist)? my acupuncturist is hesitant but i have heard of others who have said it’s fine. i just want to make sure i’m taking everything i possibly can to increase my LP. thanks so much xxx
Thank you very much for this wonderful blog post. I never knew of the benefits that saffron had for painful periods and PMS. Thanks 🙂
Your welcome Susie!! 🙂
Great article Nicole! Thanks for the easy to incorporate tips.
Thanks Barbara!! xoxo
Nicole thanks for drawing attention to this important issue- great suggestions on diet and herbs. Curious if you see any correlation with generally low temperatures and low progesterone- something I’m researching in my practice right now…Also do you have any experience with supplementing with iodine or seaweed to help the thyroid in such cases?
Hi Katinka, thanks for your comment on here. We should probably have a conversation about this because I could be writing forever on it!:) Send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll set something up. xoxo