Luteal Phase of the Menstrual Cycle

Learn how long it lasts and what happens in this phase

The luteal phase is the last stage of the menstrual cycle during which the uterus thickens to prepare for possible pregnancy. It's typically 10 to 14 days long, starting after ovulation (when the ovaries release an egg) and continuing until the first day of a period.

In a textbook 28-day cycle, ovulation occurs on day 14, and the luteal phase is from day 15 to day 28. A women's cycle can vary from 21 to 35 days. The last two weeks of the cycle are the luteal phase.

During the luteal phase, hormone levels change, and the uterine lining prepares for the implantation of a fertilized egg. This typically occurs six to 12 days post ovulation. A shortened luteal phase can make it difficult to become pregnant. This is known as a luteal phase defect.

A diary of menstruation
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This article discusses the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. It explains what happens during the luteal phase and related problems.

What Happens During the Luteal Phase

Ovulation is a process that begins when the level of luteinizing hormone or LH surges and ends 16 to 32 hours later with the release of an egg from the ovary. 

During ovulation, the ovaries release a single egg from only one of the two ovaries each menstrual cycle. Luteinizing hormone triggers enzymes to break down the wall of the follicle to release the egg. Then it stimulates the follicle to form the corpus luteum and produce progesterone.

During the luteal phase, estrogen and progesterone increase and work together to create changes in the lining of the uterus that prepare it to accept an embryo, should conception occur. The lining thickens so that it will be in the right condition for implantation and nourishment of a fertilized egg.

Fertilization happens in the fallopian tubes, and the timing of the thickening of the uterine walls must coincide with the arrival of the fertilized egg, which can take a few days after ovulation.

If implantation does not occur, estrogen and progesterone levels decline, and the lining of the uterus, called the endometrial lining, begins to be shed. This then leads to menstruation. The luteal phase ends when menstruation begins. That marks Day 1 of your next menstrual cycle.

Luteal Phase Defect

A luteal phase defect (also called a luteal phase dysfunction or luteal phase deficiency) refers to a problem with the luteal phase. The result is that the uterine lining might not be optimally prepared for the implantation of a fertilized egg.

However, the luteal phase defect is only a theoretical cause of infertility or miscarriage. The idea underlying this theory is that if the uterus is not fully prepared to support a pregnancy, a woman will not get pregnant at all, or the pregnancy will not implant properly and ultimately miscarry.

What Is the Follicular Phase?

There are just two menstrual cycle phases that occur during every monthly cycle. The first phase is the follicular phase or the proliferative phase. The follicular phase begins on Day 1 of the menstrual cycle when estrogen and progesterone levels are at their lowest.

During this phase, the uterine lining, or endometrial lining, is shed through menstruation and then begins a period of regrowth and thickening in preparation for an embryo should conception occur. This follicular phase lasts about 10 to 14 days, or until ovulation occurs, after which you pass into the luteal phase.

A Word From Verywell

Your menstrual cycle is guided by a complex interplay of hormones that nature developed to support the pregnancy. Get to know what is happening at each phase so you can understand the normal functioning of your body.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does the luteal phase make you tired?

    It can. Some women report having less energy during the luteal phase. This is because progesterone levels increase after ovulation. For many women, elevated progesterone levels cause fatigue.

  • What does discharge look like during luteal phase?

    Vaginal discharge changes during the luteal phase. Once ovulation has passed, cervical mucus lessens. It can become thick, sticky, cloudy, or non-existent. Some women experience vaginal dryness during the luteal phase.

  • What should you avoid during the luteal phase when trying to conceive?

    The luteal phase is commonly referred to as the two-week wait when you are trying to get pregnant. During this time, it's a good idea to eat healthy, exercise, and avoid smoking or drinking alcohol.

    Research links moderate drinking during the luteal phase to decreased odds of becoming pregnant.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Merck Manuals Consumer Version. Menstrual Cycle - Women's Health Issues.

  2. Noreika D, Griškova-Bulanova I, Alaburda A, Baranauskas M, Grikšienė R. Progesterone and mental rotation task: is there any effect? Biomed Res Int. 2014;2014:741758. doi:10.1155/2014/741758

  3. Anwar MY, Marcus M, Taylor KC. The association between alcohol intake and fecundability during menstrual cycle phases. Hum Reprod. 2021;36(9):2538–48. doi:10.1093/humrep/deab121

Additional Reading

By Tracee Cornforth
Tracee Cornforth is a freelance writer who covers menstruation, menstrual disorders, and other women's health issues.