Long luteal phase?…Am I pregnant?… It’s probably a safe bet that most women who are ready to start a family have a basic knowledge of their menstrual cycle. You might know that you have a period, for instance, and you probably also know that you ovulate. You might also be aware that the average woman’s cycle is around 28 days long. But what about the more minute details of a woman’s reproductive cycle? Would you be able to tell if your period was late, or if you were actually pregnant? Identifying one or the other of the options is obviously important to a hopeful couple. Long menstrual cycles can be a frustrating source of false hope – so knowing how to recognize the signs of a long luteal cycle, versus a pregnancy, can relieve some of the stress a couple may feel as they try to conceive.
The Luteal Phase
The basics of a woman’s menstrual cycle can be broken down into three sections: the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase:
- The follicular phase begins on the first day of your period and lasts until the ovaries release an egg.
- When the egg is released, the body enters ovulation, which typically lasts a couple days before the luteal phase begins.
- Finally, the luteal phase is the second half of your cycle. This is when fertilization and implantation can happen. This part of the menstrual cycle lasts between 10 to 16 days, depending on the woman. At the end of the luteal phase, one of two things will happen: you will either start your period, or you will discover you are pregnant.
So how do you know the difference between a successful conception and a long luteal phase? What are the signs? Here are a few indicators that can help you identify which stage you’re at before taking a test:
- Know when to look. Before you even begin to detect a pregnancy naturally, you’ll want to track your full cycle for a couple months. To do this, you can monitor when your periods start and end, and even incorporate ovulation tracking methods. This way, you’ll be fully aware of when each phase will typically begin – and you’ll know when to look for the subtle signs of early pregnancy.
- Look for implantation bleeding. Sure, when you’re waiting for your period to show up and you notice spotting, it’s easy to assume that you’re not pregnant. You could, however, be experiencing implantation bleeding, which is a very early sign of pregnancy. Pay attention to what happens next. If you don’t get your full period, then it could be a sign of conception.
- Watch out for tender breasts. Sore breasts are a well-known sign of pregnancy. They occur because hormones flood the body once the egg is fertilized, which increases the volume of blood. This adds to the heaviness of the breasts and can make them feel “overfilled.” However, tender breasts are also a sign of PMS – so pay attention to your usual premenstrual signs before trying to get pregnant so you’ll be able to spot the difference in sensations.
- Notice loss of energy. If you’re feeling exhausted and like you just can’t catch up on sleep no matter what you do, it might be a sign of early pregnancy. Women in their first trimesters often experience a complete lack of energy because of the body’s hormone fluctuations and increased blood production. However, there are many factors that add to feeling tired – including anxiety, lack of sleep, and even stress of infertility for those who have been trying to get pregnant for some time. Be sure to maintain a healthy lifestyle while you’re conceiving so you’ll be able to detect these small changes.
Obviously the easiest way to determine a pregnancy is by taking a simple at-home test. But for women who are trying to get pregnant, knowing and paying attention to your body is one of the best things you can do during this time – that way you won’t be frustrated if you experience an extended luteal phase. You’ll be able to assess your body during the conception process and understand its various changes. As always, Happy Babymaking!