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Low progesterone, luteal phase defect and how you can diagnose it at home, with PROOV

Updated: Mar 11, 2020

We sometimes underestimate the influence of little things... (Charles W. Chesnutt)

When I think about female fertility, I see a big chain reaction machine consisting of many tiny devices linked together, whose final goal is that of making a baby.

Kind of like a Rube Goldberg machine, the making of a baby is nothing but a series of events, all equally important, like an intricate puzzle that is not complete until the last piece has found its unique place.

When, for various reasons, the machine doesn’t work, and the baby doesn’t come, we usually tend to focus on the big and obvious things, forgetting that even the tiniest of the components may throw our machine off.

One component that can literally make or break the female fertility machine is Progesterone.

We hate it, because it mimics pregnancy symptoms and gives us false hopes.

We hate it because it is the main culprit of our PMS syndrome.

Yet we know we can’t do without it.

World, meet Progesterone!

One of the most important hormones in our bodies, Progesterone is a sex hormone that plays a major role in regulating the female reproduction.

We call it the “hormone of pregnancy” because its levels increase post ovulation, in order to prepare the endometrium for implantation in case fertilization occurs.

The levels peak around 7 days post ovulation and stay elevated throughout the luteal phase (i.e the second half of the menstrual cycle).

If pregnancy does not occur, they typically drop by 13-14 dpo so that our period may start.

If you are pregnant, progesterone stays up throughout pregnancy.

Sometimes, even if you do menstruate quite regularly, you may not ovulate. We call this an anovulatory cycle with dysfunctional uterine bleeding.

Other times you may ovulate, a Corpus Luteum is formed, but it fails to produce enough progesterone, and your levels do not rise properly. Your egg may even get fertilized, but without an adequately developed uterine lining, the embryo has a hard time implanting. The luteal phase shortens and your period arrives earlier than expected.

Sometimes, this happens before you even get the chance of knowing you were pregnant. It used to be a common occurrence back in the days when home pregnancy tests didn’t exist yet.

Sometimes it happens right after a positive sensitive pregnancy test. We call them chemicals, or missed miscarriages. We usually blame them on egg quality and chromosomal abnormalities.

But sometimes, the cause is simple, and very easy to address: low progesterone.

A Progesterone level of 5ng/ml confirms ovulation, but it is not enough to sustain a pregnancy, in which case supplementation is necessary. To support proper implantation, most doctors want progesterone levels over 10 ng/ml in natural cycles, whereas for a medicated cycle they expect values over 15ng/ml.

What is the Luteal Phase Deficiency and how can we detect it?

The period of time comprised between Ovulation and the first day of your next period is called the Luteal Phase. A healthy fertile woman would have a luteal phase of at least 11-12 days, ideally 14, for a cycle averaging 28-30 days.

If your Luteal Phase lasts less than 10 days, you may safely assume you are having a Luteal Phase Deficiency (LPD), caused by low progesterone levels.