Luteal Phase Defect: Natural Treatment Options

Luteal Phase Defect: Natural Treatment Options

The third phase of a woman’s menstrual cycle is called the Luteal Phase, and is the time between ovulation and start of a woman’s period. It is during this important time that fertilization and implantation occurs.

As you might imagine, any disruption in the luteal phase of the cycle can be cause for concern since it can affect fertility. Most experts agree that a luteal phase less than 12 days does not give the uterus sufficient time to establish a nourishing lining for a growing fetus and therefore will cause a miscarriage if fertilization has occurred.

Symptoms of Luteal Phase Defect

  • A short menstrual cycle
  • Low progesterone
  • Disrupted body basal temperatures after ovulation
  • Odd symptoms during luteal phase such as low back pain, bleeding and loose stools

Fertility charting can help to determine the length of your luteal phase and if you have low progesterone. Luteal phase defect is estimated to affect 3-4% of women who have ‘unexplained infertility’, up to 63% of women who repeatedly miscarry and 6-10% of women who are fertile.

There are several factors which can cause a luteal phase defect (LPD). The most common is a low progesterone level. Progesterone is an important hormone needed for preserving the uterine lining and pregnancy during the first trimester. In the event a woman’s progesterone production did not reach the optimum level during this important stage in her cycle, a LPD may occur.

Low Progesterone and Luteal Phase Defect

Progesterone is produced throughout the entire cycle with levels elevating directly after ovulation and staying elevated until menstruation begins. If progesterone levels do not elevate enough after ovulation or drop too soon before menstruation, this can cause a short luteal phase. Here are some of the most common culprits to low progesterone:

Poor Follicle Production
If the pituitary gland does not make enough FSH hormone during the first half of the menstrual cycle (the time between your last period and ovulation), then follicle production may be weak, which can cause a thin uterine lining and an early period. This of course will prohibit fertilization and implantation from taking place.

A Premature Drop in Progesterone
If progesterone levels drop too soon (usually within a few days of ovulation), then the body will automatically think that it is time to flush out the uterus and start all over again. Very short cycles (usually less than 24 days) is usually a sign of this type of luteal phase defect.

Low Lutenizing Hormone
Lutenizing Hormone (LH) increases prior to ovulation occurring (24hrs). It is this spike in LH which causes ovulation to occur. A lower than normal LH surge at ovulation can prevent ovulation from occurring and cause low progesterone levels as well.

Uterine Lining Failure
A fertilized egg needs a nourishing environment to grow into a fetus. This is the job of the uterus. But, if your uterine lining is not thick enough – or strong enough – it can’t sustain this new life and a miscarriage may occur. This to can be caused by low hormones or hormonal imbalance. Estrogen is the hormone which thickens the uterine lining in preparation for implantation and progesterone “ripens” the uterus preparing for implantation.

Abnormally Low Cholesterol Levels & Being Underweight
Another cause of LPD is abnormally low cholesterol levels which results in low to no progesterone production. All hormones, including progesterone, must have cholesterol in order to be manufactured by the body. Being underweight can also be a cause for LPD due to low cholesterol and body fat levels which can cause low hormonal levels across the board.

Solutions for Luteal Phase Defect

While a luteal phase defect can be very serious, prohibiting a pregnancy until it is fixed, the good news is that in most cases it can be helped by natural therapies.

Luteal Phase Defect and low progesterone levels can be increased with a variety of methods including herbs, diet, supplements and/or progesterone cream.

Diet

Make sure that any of the herbal and supplement suggestions mentioned below are made in conjunction with a diet rich in whole foods, specifically:

Vitamin C: A study in Fertility and Sterility showed that vitamin C improves hormone levels and increases fertility in some women with luteal phase defect. During the study, 25% of the women who received vitamin C had got pregnant within 6 months compared to the placebo group in which 11% got pregnant in the same time period. Foods rich in vitamin C are: Papaya, bell peppers, broccoli, brussel sprouts, strawberry and oranges.

Essential fatty acids: EFA’s are important for hormone production. Many women are low in EFA’s, specifically omega 3. Some foods rich in EFA’s are Flaxseeds, walnuts, salmon, sardines, halibut, shrimp, snapper, scallops and chia seeds.

Green leafy vegetables: Green vegetables are rich in B vitamins which are necessary for proper hormonal balance.

Cholesterol from eggs, coconut oil and fat from organic and grass-fed animal products: Cholesterol is necessary for hormone production. Avoid eating a ‘low-fat’ diet and makes sure to eat a diet that includes whole fat sourced from grass-fed animal products. Foods rich in clean cholesterol: grass-fed beef, raw milk from grass-fed cows or goats, whole milk yogurt and kefir, free-range/pastured eggs, butter from grass-fed milk (Kerry Gold is a common one), Coconut oil.

All of these foods are necessary for proper hormone production in the body. Click here to learn more about eating a natural fertility diet…

Vitex (Chasteberry)

For those looking for a more natural way to boost their progesterone levels, taking a supplement of Vitex (otherwise known as Chasteberry) may be the answer. A small fruit tree grown in the Mediterranean, Vitex has been used for centuries to treat all sorts of female issues including infertility. Studies have shown this herb to be affective at lengthening the luteal phase.

While it does not contain any hormones itself, it does help 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.

Progesterone Cream

One of the most common treatments for lengthening a woman’s luteal phase is to use a progesterone cream. Found over the counter, natural progesterone cream should be used twice a day on the inner arm, inner thigh, or neck, after ovulation has occurred until the period begins. If the problem begins with low Lutenizing Hormone, then just adding progesterone may not work. Click here to learn more about using progesterone cream properly…

B6

A lot of women have reported a lengthened luteal phase after supplementing with B6. This may have been caused by the hormonal balancing effect B6 has on the body. B6 can be found in tuna, bananas, turkey, liver, salmon and many of the greens. Taking a B6 supplement is also another choice. Suggested usage is 50mg up to 100mg daily. Make sure to use B6 in conjunction with a B complex or multivitamin to avoid causing imbalances.

Antioxidants

Recent studies have found that oxidative damage may be a cause of luteal phase defect. Women who had luteal phase defect and recurrent miscarriages were found to have significantly lower levels of antioxidants than healthy women. There are so many benefits of antioxidants on fertility, they should be a part of every couples fertility program. Learn more about antioxidants and fertility…

Any type of luteal Phase Defect is serious since it will prevent pregnancy. Luckily, they can be easily remedied with the therapies listed above. You may also find it helpful to get your hormones tested as well as fertility chart to determine the length of your luteal phase and to also see the changes your chosen protocol are causing.

References:
1. Weiss, R.F. 1988. Herbal Medicine, Beaconsfield Arcanum, Gothenburg, Sweden.
2. Trickey, R. Women’s Hormones & the Menstrual Cycle. 2003, Allen & Unwin.
3. Vitamin C Increases Fertility in Women with Luteal Phase Defect. Fertility and Sterility (2003;80:459–61)

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[-] 31 Comments
  1. Great article, thank you! My LP is only about 10-12 days long and my Dr. told me I was crazy for thinking I had LPD. I am 30, we have one 4 year old child and have been TTC for over a year. We are a healthy whole-foods family always, so I am praying that my upped intake of supplements, maca and the foods mentioned above does the trick for me. Thanks for writing such easy to read, comprehensive articles. This site has been a great help to me.

  2. This is interesting… I’ve been diagnosed with endometriosis, PCOS, and low progesterone/LPD but in spite of prescription progesterone, then progesterone injections, taking vitex and later adding maca, I *still* have a 24 day cycle in spite of progesterone blood tests showing normal during treatment. I have clockwork cycles, even though they are short! I’m starting to wonder if I have either LH issues or if my progesterone drops earlier than it should as suggested in this article. My body is a complete mystery!! I’m loving these articles, they are very informative.

    • Hi Melissa,

      Yes, 24 days is short, but if your luteal phase is at least 12 days, you may be in the clear. The body is a complete mystery! Since you have low progesterone…my thoughts are that progesterone supplementation, over time may be a good route. How long were you taking prescription progesterone? It takes anywhere from 4 months to a year to bring low progesterone levels back to a good level, so perhaps the supplementation wasn’t long enough? I hope you get this figured out! My last thoughts…have you changed your diet to align with a healthy way of eating for endometriosis and PCOS? That may help!

  3. Thank you for writing this!,
    So many issues i’m having with my body line up with this!!
    breast cysts (extremely painful)
    irregular periods (27 to 42 days)
    inability to loose weight
    still lactating 4 years after BLW our youngest,
    but i’m not trying to fall pregnant, have got my 2 little boys and don’t plan on having any others, (youngest is about to turn 5)
    is there another condition (for lack of a better term) that i could be experiencing, or is this likely to my issue?
    Thanks in Advance!

    • Hi Mish,

      LPD may be part of what is going on with your body, or a result of a hormone imbalance. Women who are still lactating after weaning a baby may have a condition called hyperprolactinemia, a result of elevated prolactin levels. One of the top causes of this is a small benign pituitary tumor. It sounds like you need to get in to a good doctor (one that listens to you and your concerns and you feel comfortable with) and get a full hormone panel run. See what tests we find are important here: http://natural-fertility-info.com/restore-hormonal-balance-for-improved-fertility.html under Hormone Testing. Your doctor will help you to determine the cause of your symptoms. After you find out your test results, if an issue/imbalance is determined, there are natural options to help and you can contact us back! We work with women who aren’t trying to conceive as well as those that are!

  4. Update 2014 – We are back! We have been away for a while and we sure have missed all of your wonderful questions and thoughts on our articles. I apologize that we were unable to reply to all past comments. Moving forward, one of our staff herbalists will be here to respond to comments! We look forward to connecting with our readers once again!

  5. I have a 30-day or so cycle. But I start spotting in the 9-12dpo range. I usually ovulate around day 10.

    I was just diagnosed with low progesterone. It was 3.5 at 7dpo.

    I was on the pill for 8 years. I got pregnant with my 2 1/2 year-old daughter immediately upon stopping the pill. I had a great pregnancy.

    I then had normal cycles for 1 year. Then, 1 year of the spotting, super-sore breasts, bit of insomnia, PMS, etc.

    Dr wants me to take Prometrium & Clomid.

    Would Maca have a similar effect? I have read not to take Vitex with regular cycles. I have regular cycles & I am still ovulating.

  6. Hello
    I had a miscarriage in Feb 2012, and i recently found out that my luteal phase is only 9 or 10 days. My gynec has given me the progestron cream. And she told me that there is nothing else to do. How can I get back my hormones to normal level. Please please advice me on this. I have nobody to else to ask for guidance. We have been ttc for almost 2 years. Can I just take vitex as an additional suppliment while using this progestron cream?

  7. Hi
    I have been charting for only three months now because of the two miscarriages I had last year, Sep ’11 and Jan ’12.
    My cycle has been very irregular since, a 19 day cycle between Feb & Mar, no idea but I suspect I didn’t ovulate so soon after a miscarriage.
    The three cycles I have charted BBT, CM and Cervix Position.
    Cycle 1: 25 days long, temp rise (OV?) day 16
    Cycle 2: 23 days long, temp rise (OV?) day 16
    Cycle 3: 26 days long, temp rise (OV?) day 14

    I have no clue and I have seen my doctor, he suspects a progesterone deficit.
    Just wondering what I can do naturally to lengthen my LP? I’ve read taking Vitex Agnus Castus, B6, B12 and Dong Quai can all help but I have no clue how much of each to take etc etc.

    Dee

  8. Dear Hethir,

    I have read a lot of information from your website over the last 18 months. I wondered if I could ask for your advice?
    I have just turned 38 and my partner and I have been trying to conceive for approximately 18 months. My partner is 34 healthy and his sperm count and sperm motility is normal. I have had hashimotos for 7 years, and last year I discovered I have uterine fibroids. I am on bio identical hormones for my thyroid, my doctor has my TSH down quite low so I now ovulate most months. I have been on 200mg of natural progesterone for just over a year, at first the cream and now I use a troche. I am also on a 50 mg DHEA. I take multivitamins, epo, fish oils, vitamin d (10 units per day for a deficiency) vitex, iodine ( deficiency) folic acid, b complex and baby aspirin, preseed.
    As far as treatments that we have tried – my thyroid doctor also practices nutritional medicine so he has me on the above supplements and a good diet with alot of fresh foods, full cream A2 milk and eliminating coffee and alcohol. I was also seeing a naturopath and I was taking fertility tonics for 3 months but I stopped ovulating so I ceased the treatment. I’m not sure if it was related to the treatment or a coincidence. I have also tried acupuncture and Chinese medicine for 6 months.
    I chart and use an ovulation predictor. So far we have had no success in conceiving and whenever we think we have had a month where conception may have taken place I end up cramping and spotting and getting my period really early. I am normally a regular 27 day cycle but if I have one of the cycles where we think we may have conceived I get spotting and then a period around CD 20/21. I am currently spotting and it started at CD 20.
    I realise that as the months continue to pass I am running out of time to be a mother due to my age. Can you offer any general advice as to why I am spotting, anything I’m not doing that I should be? Or do we seem to be on the right track?

    Thank you for reading my post.

    Kind regards,

    Jodi

  9. hello.

    ttc for my second child but had another miscarriage last year. just started trying again this hear. im 39 and have recently noticed a change in my cycle. on ocassion i have two periods in one month. this has happened 3 times. i just had my period 17days ago and am spotting and feel like its coming again. had blood work done, doctor says progesterone is on the low side and suggested supplementing with bio hormones 100mg vaginal. do you advise i take vitex too. all other hormones were fine i had everything done except iron was also low and im supplementing. could this be a sign of menopause. dr advises to not to put of ttc for too long.i really want another one. i live a very clean lifestyle. i eat well and take supplements, drink wheat grass and weigh 110pnds. i’ve removed all chemicals from my diet and cosmetics. any other advice to offer in terms of supplements. how much standardized vitex to you advise i take, thanks

  10. Hi,

    I had a missed miscarriage at 12 weeks (baby stopped developing just short of 10 weeks). I had a D&C, and got my first period 29 days later. I had my first ovulation after the miscarriage 11 or 12 days into my cycle, and then stared my next cycle after only 23 days when prior to the miscarriage, my cycles were 27 days faithfully. I am expecting my 3rd period to start in about 5 or 6 days (according to a 23 day cycle), but am concerned about my LP since my cycle has shortened, and my LP seems to be only 10 or 11 days now. I purchased some Vitex & have it on hand in case this cycle is short as well. What would you suggest? Thank you in advance

  11. Hi,
    Currently, I have a 2 yr old. Prior to her, I had to miscarriages and then another 2 after her. My last miscarriage was in Dec 2012. I had my regular period from Dec 2011 to Feb 2012. By regular, I mean 28 days cycle. But in Mar 2012, it went to 34 days which is very unusual for me as I always have a regular period. And in April 2012, all I had was brown-black discharge for 9 days. So far, nothing has happened in May 2012 yet. I had my blood test recently and the luteal phase result shows <1 where the normal range is between 0-5 for non- pregnant female. What can I still do to go back to my regular cycle?

    Thanks.
    Len

  12. Hello,
    I’m new to charting so don’t want to sound to premature about writing but ill give you a little background first of all. I have a daughter that was born March/2010, in October 2010 I received my last depo-shot because we want another baby and I know it took 6 months after getting off it the first time to concieve our daughter. I got my period in Jan right on schedule then things started to get screwed up. My next period was in May 2011 followed by June. July and August were late by up to 2 weeks each. September I began having periods literally every other week so my doctor put me on birth control in October to “regulate” my periods. I took the pill for 2 months (Oct and Nov 11) and since then I have been getting regular periods but have gone from 28 days to (now) 25 days. I have started tracking my bbt this cycle and noticed on fertility friend it says I didn’t ovulate until day 18 (leaving me 7 day Luteal phase if I get my period in 2 days as supposed to) after reading through online today I’m going to start taking B6 and red raspberry leaf tea (I already take a prenatal since we have been ttc for over a year now) do you have any other suggestions? I have to explain why I haven’t talked to the doctor about this yet: I plan on having bbt charts, etc when I DO go but I have already talked to her about this and the only thing she said is this “wouldn’t be the ideal time to get pregnant” because I was hit head on in a Motor vehicle accident this past september (2011) and suffer from post concussion migraines, haven’t worked since then and a number of other issues (nerve damage in neck-causing the headaches, soft tissue damage, etc) BUT there’s a number of years between my boyfriend and I (he’s 41 I’m 25- and no he doesn’t have impotence problems) and we would like to have another child before (as he says) he’s to old to enjoy children and seeing them grow up and actively participate in their lives. Sooo there’s my whole crazy story, any help would be greatly appreciated :)

  13. I took Evening Primrose Oil (EPO) for the first time this month (1,000mg day 1-OV). I have had a wierd luteal phase this month. I am 7 days past ovulation, and I have had creamy cm every day (typically I would be dry now), and I have had a small bit of colostrum leaked onto the ends of my nipples (I stopped breastfeeding 6 months ago). Would this be linked to the EPO????
    Thanks

    • Hi Amanda,

      I am not sure and I know I am replying to your very old post. I have known many mamas to have some fluid leak from the breasts for up to a year post-breastfeeding, including me.

  14. If anyone could give me a word of advice, I’d appreciate it. My husband and I are trying to conceive. I had stretchy, fertile-seeming cervical fluid on March 27th, preceded by creamy/milky quality the day before. We tried on the 26th, 27th, & 28th. Nine days later (April 5th, yesterday) I started cramping very mildly and spotting lightly (my period usually starts suddenly and fairly heavy). Is this a real period or could it be an early miscarriage? Does this indicate a short luteal phase? Or is it possible I miscalculated my ovulation? I’m so confused by what I’ve observed. Please help.

  15. I do BBT charting. I’ve figured out that I have a short luteal phase of 10/11 days. This cycle, I ovulated on CD22 and started an otc natural progesterone cream. (1/8 tsp/2x daily) Since starting the cream, I have been having very sore breasts/nipples, headaches, and feeling out of sorts. I am now dpo11 and my temps have above my coverline, with no AF in sight. This morning, my temp started to fall a little bit, and my breasts are no longer sore. I did a preg test and it was negative. Is it normal for progesterone to mimic pregnancy symptoms?

  16. i sent in a question earlier. Pls i also want 2 kno. My period lasts 4 only 2days. Is this ok?

  17. Hello,
    We’ve been TTC for too long now, and we’ve just recently had a miscarriage in September of 11. While I was all to happy to learn we could conceive it was devastating to have lost our baby. When I was pregnant, and didn’t know it, I swear to the Lord above, that I had a period. Not until 8 days after my period did I test due to mid cycle spotting. (something that’s never happened to me before) As you can guess, I was beyond surprised when I saw that second line appear. We’ve also had what you would call “chemical pregnancies” in the past. I would test, and an incredibly faint line would appear, and I’d wait two days and nothing. I just recently started to REALLY look over my chart on fertility friend, and realized that my luteal phase is only 9-10 days long. I’m thinking that, could be the culprit as to why I’m not able to keep these pregnancies. I’m currently taking 100 B-complex. (and thanks to this site, I’m going to be eating more green leafy veggies, and more foods high in vitamin C) Is the 100 B-complex enough? Or should I be taking more B-6 with the complex? My husband is deployed right now, so I’m taking this time to try and “fix” this problem. Crossing my fingers and praying it works.
    thanks so much!
    Diana

    • Hi Diana,

      I am glad to hear you went back through your charts and figured this out! For B6 suggested usage is 50mg up to 100mg daily. Make sure to use B6 in conjunction with a B complex or multivitamin to avoid causing imbalances. You would look at your B complex supplement label to see how many milligrams of B6 are included in it. If it is less than 50-100mg you will need to additionally supplement with a separate B6.

      Best Wishes,

      Dalene

  18. Hello Hethir,

    I need your advice. I have been ttc for 7 months and ONLY since ttc have I started brown spotting 4-5 days before my period. I have had a regular 23 day cycle for 2 years, since coming of the pill. My luteal phase has only been 9 days. Since taking B6, my luteal phase is now 11 days. But the spotting keeps getting worse. I took Soy isoflavones CD 1-5 this month thinking perharps a poor corpus luteam may be the cause. I had EWCM for 10 days this cycle. I ovulated on CD 14 as usual, and started Emeritta Progest 3DPO. By 4DPO i had alot of brown spotting. Which is at least a week sooner than the spotting usually starts. The cream also made me dizzy and sick to my stomach, mind you i think i may have used a little too much. Im at a loss, and really unsure of what to do from here. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    • Hi hollis,

      What you are experiencing after beginning the progesterone cream is very typical. This is because hen you are first introducing progesterone back into the body after an extended period of progesterone deficiency, the estrogen receptor sites ‘wake up’ (are stimulated) enhancing the action of estrogen for a short period of time. This is acutally a sign that the progesterone is working, even though at the beginning it can exacerbate estrogen dominance symptoms such as breast tenderness and swelling, spotting, fluid retention, dizziness, hot flashes, fatigue, headaches and nausea. This should go away after the first couple cycles of use. We do not find soy isoflavones work very well and often end up causing more hormonal imbalance in the end. Dietary changes should come first before herbs or supplement use for LPD. Because I do not know what your diet or lifestyle is like it is hard to say what may be best to learn about. Honestly manipulating hormones by using soy isoflavones in the first half of the cycle and then using the progesterone cream the second half of the cycle may not be the best route to go at first. It is best to begin with dietary changes, supplementing nutrients that may be lacking, then adding herbs to regulate the cycle length next, and last increasing progesterone directly. Just a thought. Check out our thoughts on soy isoflavone use at the end of the article at this link: http://natural-fertility-info.com/fertility-supplements-qa.html

      All the best,

      Dalene

  19. I have been charting my BBT for about 8 months now. The number of days from my temp. rise until my period has varied: 13, 15, 12, 10, 12, 14, and last month was 13. This month, my husband and I decided to start trying for a baby, and have skipped only 1 night since my period ;) I had a temp rise on day 23, and even though the temps have stayed up, it was not a full rise. I’m at day 29 now, and of course checking out everything about earliest pregnancy signs and such. I have a very good feeling that I am in fact pregnant, although that may just be wishful thinking. On the chance that I could be pregnant, I am now worried about having a short luteal phase this month and losing the baby. Is there anything that I can do at this point to try to ensure that doesn’t happen?

    • Hi Rebecca,

      You could contact your doctor about your progesterone level (to see if it is adequate. I am not sure if there is really anything you can do at this point. Without knowing what is causing LPD, if you even have that, it is hard to say what may be helpful. You may find that information on our Recurrent Miscarriages page may be helpful.

      All the best, hoping you are pregnant!

      Dalene

  20. I am on day 17 of my cycle and started bleeding. Taking Bio Prog days 12-26 and tried to conceive days 10, 13 and 14. Is this a period or something else?

  21. I’ve been TTC for a while now. Last month, I had 1 day of brown spotting, then a few days of nothing, then my period. So this month, I temped. I had 1 day of brown spotting 9 DPO and then my period at 12 DPO. Before last month, I had never spotted. I have a 2 year old who still nurses 3 times per day. She’s 27 months and I got my first PP period at 6 months and my cycles have been regular (24-32 days) since. Is this a luteal phase problem?

    • Hi Anne,

      Based on your information there is no real way for me to know for sure if you may have LPD or not. Because low progesterone is the leading cause of LPD you may want to consider taking a progesterone test. This may help you to determine if in fact that is the case. This article has great tips for what you can to nutritionally and supplemental to start. If you continue to spot, you also may want to consider other options, but you may need to wean your child before beginning these.

      All the best,

      Dalene

  22. I had a fibroid operation nine mouths a go.my menstration has stop.it came in dec and mar.after the operation i was giving no drugs.what shoud i do.i dont have a child and will want .can i have the second chance.thanks you so much.