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Posted By on January 12, 2009

Luteal phase

Main article: Luteal phase

The luteal phase is also called the secretory phase. An important role is played by the corpus luteum, the solid body formed in an ovary after the egg has been released from the ovary into the fallopian tube. This body continues to grow for some time after ovulation and produces significant amounts of hormones, particularly progesterone.[2] Progesterone plays a vital role in making the endometrium receptive to implantation of the blastocyst and supportive of the early pregnancy; it also has the side effect of raising the woman’s basal body temperature.[19]

After ovulation, the pituitary hormones FSH and LH cause the remaining parts of the dominant follicle to transform into the corpus luteum, which produces progesterone and estrogens. The hormones produced by the corpus luteum also suppress production of the FSH and LH that the corpus luteum needs to maintain itself. Consequently, the level of FSH and LH fall quickly over time, and the corpus luteum subsequently atrophies.[2] Falling levels of progesterone trigger menstruation and the beginning of the next cycle. From the time of ovulation until progesterone withdrawal has caused menstruation to begin, the process typically takes about two weeks, with ten to sixteen days considered normal. For an individual woman, the follicular phase often varies in length from cycle to cycle; by contrast, the length of her luteal phase will be fairly consistent from cycle to cycle.[20]

The loss of the corpus luteum can be prevented by fertilization of the egg; the resulting embryo produces human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which is very similar to LH and which can preserve the corpus luteum. Because the hormone is unique to the embryo, most pregnancy tests look for the presence of hCG.[2]


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