If you’re struggling to become pregnant or have recurring miscarriages, something called a luteal phase defect may be the problem. The luteal phase is the second half of your menstrual cycle that occurs from the time that you ovulate until your period begins. Normally this phase is about 14 days, which allows an egg the time it needs to travel from your ovaries, become fertilized, and implant in your uterine lining.
When your luteal phase is less than 10 days, the lining of your uterus begins to slough off too soon. A fertilized egg doesn’t have enough time to implant and produce the systemic hormonal changes needed to sustain your pregnancy. In some cases, the embryo implants, but recurrent pregnancy loss may occur because the lining of your uterus sheds too soon or is too thin. There are a number of reasons that this may be happening:
Low levels of estrogen. In your ovaries, your eggs are contained inside follicles, which are fluid-filled sacs. Estrogen, in the form of estradiol, is produced as your eggs mature and prepare for ovulation, which causes the lining of your uterus, called the endometrium, to thicken. When there aren’t enough follicles or healthy eggs in the follicles, then the levels of secreted estrogen may be low. This may also happen when your eggs are old, unhealthy, or immature. The lack of sufficient estrogen can translate into a uterine lining that is too thin to support implantation and pregnancy.
Low levels of progesterone. At ovulation one of your developing eggs (those that will mature that month) is released from the dominant follicle. Once that has happened, the follicle turns into what is called the corpus luteum. The corpus luteum produces progesterone and estrogen, which helps develop and maintain your uterine lining to prepare for the implantation of a fertilized egg (an embryo). However, There are a few of reasons, that your progesterone may be low:
- You didn’t ovulate that month. This may happen from conditions such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), hormone imbalances, low or high body weight, high prolactin levels, thyroid dysfunction and advanced maternal age.
- The follicle was immature or had not developed properly. Again, this can be the result of PCOS, age, or possibly from stress, metabolic issues, toxic load, smoking, diet, substance abuse, heavy metals, or other health-related issues.
- Advanced maternal age. This simply means that your eggs are getting older.
The Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Ovarian Axis in your brain also plays a role in this this cycle, because your hormones are based on a feedback loop. For example, if your eggs, ovaries, and follicles are healthy, then your levels of FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) will be within the normal range, because your ovaries are telling the pituitary gland that no help is needed. However, if your eggs are getting older, then your ovaries may send the signal that they need more stimulation, and FSH rises. So while your Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Ovarian Axis isn’t necessarily to blame, it responds and reacts to ovarian function and egg quality.
If you have a luteal phase defect, you may not notice any symptoms until you have difficulty becoming pregnant or experience recurring miscarriages. However, beyond fertility problems, some women with this imbalance may experience short menstrual cycles, bleeding between their periods, an intolerance to cold, fatigue, dry skin, hot flashes, night sweats or breast tenderness.
Treating Luteal Phase Defect Naturally at BodaHealth
According to Chinese medicine, the symptoms of a luteal phase defect are viewed as poor reproductive health, not necessarily the inability to become pregnant. Our goal is to help you balance your hormones and recover your physical well-being in order to restore your reproductive health. To do this, we offer our patients acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and naturopathic medicine.
We provide acupuncture treatments with a goal of restoring hormonal balance. This in turn helps improve the function of your ovaries, the quality of your eggs, and balances estrogen and progesterone levels. Researchers have found that acupuncture treatments increase blood flow to your ovaries and other reproductive organs which improves egg quality and nourishes your uterus. In addition, acupuncture is well-known for its ability to reduce stress, which can disrupt your hormones and impact fertility.
Our practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine may prescribe herbs for you as a part of your treatment strategy. Their goal is to nourish your body systemically, boost the nourishing quality of your blood, and reset the balance of your hormones. Any herbal formula you receive will be tailored to your specific needs and health history, and are adjusted according to your menstrual cycle and modified as your body changes.
The naturopathic doctors at BodaHealth are able to assess factors that may affect your reproductive health. This includes your hormonal status, diet, digestion, gut bacteria, lifestyle, and any exposure to toxins or chemicals that may affect your health. Our naturopathic practitioners can assess your adrenal health, which may also be a factor in short luteal phase issues. There are a number of supplements that our naturopaths prescribe to help improve egg quality, as well as any other herbs, vitamins, or nutrients that may be warranted to improve your overall health and fertility. In addition, they are able to prescribe hormonal therapy when appropriate.
Our practitioners have extensive training in reproductive health and a passion for working with women and couples who are struggling with fertility issues. At BodaHealth, your treatment will be as individual as you are. You’ll be treated with care, compassion, and a great deal of knowledge and experience. If you are struggling to become pregnant or have suffered the heartbreak of recurring miscarriages, contact us today to learn more about how we can help you.