HomeHealth articlesmenstrual irregularityWhat Is Luteal Phase Dysfunction?

Luteal Phase Dysfunction: A Menstrual Cycle Dysregulation

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Luteal phase dysfunction is characterized by low progesterone levels and impaired corpus luteum function. Read further to know more about it.

Written by

Dr. Asna Fatma

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Vrinda Khemani

Published At December 12, 2022
Reviewed AtMarch 8, 2023


The luteal phase is one of the menstrual cycle phases that lasts from day 14 to day 28. Various hormonal and uterine changes characterize the luteal phase. These changes include increased levels of progesterone, estrogen, luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, altered endometrial lining, dysfunction of the corpus luteum, etc. In addition, luteal phase defects can occur due to various physiologic and pathological causes, including anorexia, obesity, endometriosis, significant weight loss, polycystic ovary syndrome, advanced reproductive age, etc.

What Is Luteal Phase?

The luteal phase is one of the phases occurring during a menstrual cycle. A typical menstrual cycle (periods) is 28 days long. A menstrual cycle starts with the follicular phase, which extends from day 1 to day 14, followed by ovulation which is usually around day 14. Lastly, the cycle ends with the luteal phase, which begins after ovulation and ends on day 28. The luteal phase usually lasts for 14 days. The luteal phase is a dynamic phase characterized by various hormonal and uterine changes (changes in the uterus). These changes include:

  • Change in levels of various hormones.

  • Increased progesterone levels.

  • Increased estrogen levels.

  • Decreased luteinizing hormone levels.

  • Decreased follicle-stimulating hormone levels.

  • Alterations in the endometrial lining to support egg implantation.

  • Development of a temporary endocrine structure in female ovaries known as the corpus luteum.

Change in the levels of hormones during the luteal phase cause several symptoms that are generally known as premenstrual syndrome (PMS). The symptoms include; mood swings, anxiety, headaches, irritability, tender breasts, bloating, food cravings, altered sexual desires, etc.

What Is a Luteal Phase Dysfunction?

Luteal phase dysfunction or luteal phase defect refers to disorders resulting from impaired corpus luteum function associated with insufficient progesterone synthesis. Recurrent pregnancy losses and infertility have both been linked to luteal phase dysfunctions. In the case of an individual with luteal phase dysfunction, the uterine lining does not grow properly every month, and decreased progesterone production results in fertility issues. Given the significance of the luteal phase in the development of a healthy pregnancy, a defect in the luteal phase has been proposed as a cause of recurrent pregnancy loss. Typically, a luteal phase shorter than ten days is known to occur in the case of luteal phase dysfunction (other definitions include less than 11 days and less than nine days).

What Causes Luteal Phase Dysfunction?

The common causes of luteal phase dysfunction include:

  • Eating disorders or amenorrhea.

  • Endometriosis (growth of endometrial tissues outside the uterus).

  • Excessive exercise and physical stress.

  • Significant weight loss.

  • Stress.

  • Obesity.

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (enlargement of ovaries with the presence of small cysts on the outer edge).

  • Aging.

  • 21-hydroxylase deficiency.

  • Thyroid dysfunction.

  • Hyperprolactinemia (excessive levels of the hormone that produces breast milk).

Is Luteal Phase Dysfunction a Common Condition?

  • Although it is difficult to pinpoint the exact incidence, three to four percent of infertile couples may be affected by the condition.

  • Moreover, healthy women occasionally and randomly produce less progesterone during the luteal phase.

  • Women of all races are affected by luteal phase deficit. Luteal phase insufficiency is prevalent in women in their reproductive years.

What Are the Symptoms of Luteal Phase Dysfunction?

Common symptoms of luteal phase dysfunction:

  • Frequent periods.

  • Frequent miscarriages.

  • Difficulty in conceiving.

  • Spotting between periods.

  • Enlargement of the thyroid gland may be an indication of hypothyroidism.

  • An enlarged, atypically shaped uterus indicates myomas of the uterus.

What Are the Other Diseases Associated With Luteal Phase Dysfunction?

Some other common conditions similar to luteal phase dysfunction are:

  • Hyperprolactinemia: An endocrine disorder characterized by excessive production of prolactin hormone. It is the hormone responsible for milk production in breasts.

  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: A hormonal condition known as the polycystic ovarian syndrome is prevalent in females of reproductive age. Women with the polycystic ovarian syndrome may experience irregular or prolonged menstrual cycles or have elevated amounts of androgens. The ovaries could produce a lot of tiny cysts on the outer lining of the ovary.

  • Thyroid Diseases: Imbalance in the levels of the thyroid hormones (thyroxine, triiodothyronine, and calcitonin) may lead to several thyroid gland disorders like hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, goiter, etc.

How Is Luteal Phase Dysfunction Diagnosed?

Luteal phase dysfunction or luteal phase defects are typically hard to diagnose because numerous blood examinations confirm the diagnosis. A clinical diagnosis of luteal phase dysfunction is obtained by multiple diagnostic procedures, including clinical, biochemical, and histologic testing.

  • Blood Examinations: Blood tests are done to check the levels of the follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, progesterone, estrogen, etc.

  • Imaging Tests: A pelvic ultrasound may be done to check the thickness of the uterus lining and other abnormalities associated with the uterus.

  • Endometrial Biopsy: This method was earlier used to diagnose luteal phase dysfunction. Endometrial biopsy is not advised for histologic dating of the endometrium, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the Society for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. Endometrial biopsies have not been demonstrated to distinguish between fertile and infertile women; instead, they have the accuracy in discerning only the early, mid, and late luteal phases.

How Is Luteal Phase Dysfunction Treated?

Luteal phase dysfunction requires treatment depending on the person's general health and whether they are trying to get pregnant. In addition, the condition will require treatment of other health problems that may be leading to luteal phase dysfunction. Medications for luteal phase dysfunction include:

  • Elevated serum prolactin levels have been treated with dopamine receptor agonists.

  • Hypothyroidism is treated by thyroid replacement therapy.

  • The decreased levels in the luteal phase seen with this condition are raised by supplemental progesterone.

  • Clomiphene citrate improves follicular development and increases progesterone levels during the luteal phase.

  • Human menopausal gonadotropins increase follicular development and progesterone levels during the luteal phase.


A luteal phase deficiency may develop if the ovaries do not release enough progesterone or the uterine lining does not react to the hormone. Anorexia and endometriosis, among other health issues, have been associated with the condition. In addition, a luteal phase deficiency prevents the creation of the uterine lining, which is necessary for egg implantation and fetal development and is characterized by low progesterone levels. Thankfully, luteal phase defect is easily detectable and treatable with progesterone-supporting medications or lifestyle modifications.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Is the Luteal Phase Defect Occurring in Menstruation?

A luteal phase defect is a fertility disorder that affects a woman’s ovulation (release of an egg) cycle. It can cause difficulties in becoming pregnant. The disorder has characteristic features of low progesterone levels, and inhibition of uterus lining growth, which are required for egg implantation and fetal growth.


What Are the Causes of Luteal Phase Dysfunction?

Luteal phase dysfunction develops with a reduction in progesterone production. Specific health conditions lead to the development of luteal phase defects, they are endometriosis (tissue growth similar to uterine lining in other body parts), underactive or overactive thyroid, polycystic ovarian syndrome (hormone disorder with enlarged ovary and cyst in the lining), obesity, stress, extreme frequency of exercise, and anorexia (eating disorder).


What Are the Hormones Regulating the Menstrual Cycle in the Luteal Phase?

During the luteal phase, there is a rupture of the follicle that releases the egg and forms the corpus luteum. Corpus luteum increases progesterone production, and the estrogen levels are elevated. The progesterone and estrogen hormones facilitate urethral lining thickening and implantation. The luteinizing and follicular stimulating hormone levels decrease.


What Are the Symptoms of Luteal Phase Defects?

Most women are unaware of the disorder until they lose pregnancy or have trouble conceiving. Other women experience symptoms of spotting between periods, difficulty conceiving, miscarriages, bloating (gas build-up in the stomach), headache, breast swelling along with pain and tenderness, mood changes, weight gain, food cravings, changes in sexual desire, and difficulty sleeping.


How to Overcome Luteal Phase Defects?

Simple lifestyle changes can overcome luteal phase defects. Women facing stress can manage it with meditation, exercise, or stress management techniques. Low progesterone levels in the luteal phase can be managed with progesterone supplements. Human chorionic gonadotropin can stimulate progesterone secretion in women with this disorder. Medications like clomiphene stimulate ovulation.


Can Pregnancy Occur With a Luteal Phase Defect?

Women suffering from luteal phase defects have a shortened luteal phase of 10 days or less. It leads to lower progesterone levels and uterine line thinning. The combination of these factors leads to difficulty in becoming pregnant.


What Are the Natural Methods to Overcome Luteal Phase Defects?

Luteal phase defects can be overcome with diet. Studies suggest vitamin C can improve hormone levels and increase fertility. Natural sources of vitamin C are papaya, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, strawberries, and oranges. Intake of essential fatty acids like omega 3 can improve hormone production in some women. The natural sources are flaxseeds, scallops, shrimp, and chia seeds. Green leafy vegetables contain vitamin B, which is necessary for hormonal balance. Cholesterol from eggs, coconut oil, and fat from organic and grass-fed animal products are necessary for hormone production.


How Does PCOS Cause Corpus Luteum Insufficiency?

Polycystic ovary disease (PCOS) affects hormone production in ovaries and follicular maturation. PCOS causes corpus luteum insufficiency due to underdeveloped follicles in ovaries, resulting in obstruction. Development and growth of oocyte and corpus luteum are affected by low progesterone or estrogen hormone secretion.


What Are the Hormones Elevated During the Luteal Phase?

Progesterone level increases during the luteal phase. The hormone prepares the uterine lining for pregnancy by making it thicker. The thickened lining is favorable for egg implantation and pregnancy. The hormone also causes the cervical mucus to thicken to prevent bacteria from entering the uterus.


How to Balance Hormones During Periods?

Hormones can be balanced with diet changes. Food that triggers hormone imbalances like sugar, caffeine, and alcohol must be avoided. Chronic stress can enhance hormonal imbalance and lead to irregular periods. Lack of adequate sleep can impact the menstrual cycle this can be overcome with uninterrupted eight hours of quality sleep. Fish oil and vitamins D and B can help balance estrogen levels.


What Is the Nutritional Requirement During the Luteal Phase?

During the luteal phase, the dietary requirements essential are zinc and magnesium. Zinc is available from oysters, grass-fed beef, and chickpeas. The magnesium content is present in food like pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and spinach.


Can Luteal Phase Defect Cause Miscarriage?

Luteal phase defects can cause implantation failure, resulting in miscarriages. The disorder disrupts menstruation and lowers progesterone secretion. This may lead to thinning of the uterine lining or lack of response to hormones.


How Common Is a Luteal Phase Defect?

Luteal phase defect is an uncommon condition. The disorder can cause infertility or abortion. In addition, it can also lower progesterone hormone secretion and prevent the thickening of the uterine lining.


Can Folic Acid Intake Prolong the Luteal Phase?

Folic acid is a water-soluble form of vitamin B9. The vitamin is not stored in the body and requires dietary intake. Folic acid is also responsible for balancing homocysteine levels. If folic acid intake is increased, it can result in elevated progesterone levels.


Which Are Foods Not Recommended During the Luteal Phase?

The foods that must be avoided during the luteal phase are
- Caffeine - Caffeine disrupts the endocrine system, leading to an imbalance in blood sugar and cortisol levels. It can also increase the body’s risk of developing cysts.
- Soy - Processed soy products like soy milk, meat, cheese, and yogurt can cause estrogen imbalance.
- White Potatoes - The potatoes consist of starch that disrupts blood sugar levels, leading to their spike and crash. It can affect fertility and ovulation in women.
- Pesticide-Laden and GMO (Genetically Modified Food) Foods - These must be avoided to maintain hormone levels.
- Artificial Sweeteners - They can cause blood sugar imbalances and also inhibit ovulation.
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Dr. Vrinda Khemani
Dr. Vrinda Khemani

Obstetrics and Gynecology


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