In a fast-paced society where slow-living isn’t always championed, the luteal phase can sometimes get neglected. There are some significant shifts in this stage of the menstrual cycle which are worth keeping in mind. Read on to find out the key aspects of the luteal phase.

The Basics

The luteal phase, which begins from day 15 to day 28, is the time when the uterus lining is thickened and the uterus prepares for pregnancy. If you don’t become pregnant, then progesterone levels fall in the body which leads to the uterus lining being shed, and your monthly period. The luteal phase makes up the post-ovulation phase of your cycle. Following after the follicular phase, it is the period when the menstrual cycle comes to an end. 

The Must-Know About the Luteal Phase

21Ninety spoke with Adele Wimsett, a Women’s Health Practitioner, supporting women from menarche to menopause. Wimsett also offers an online hormone clinic to support women in harmonizing their hormones.

There are a few things to note about the signs and characteristics of the luteal phase. Namely, sensitivity. Your physical body may become much more sensitive (headaches, tenderness, stomach cramps, and more) as well as your emotional body (mood swings and irritability).

“You will feel more sensitive to everything around you and inside of you. You even may find that you are more sensitive to how your clothes feel on your skin, so choosing soft, comfortable fabrics can even help reduce any sensory overload,” Wimsett explains. As the body’s sensitivity levels shift during the luteal phase, it is important to consider how this may affect social and personal interactions. Wimsett suggests finding ways to approach disagreements with your cycle in mind: “approach disagreements by reconsidering how this may be best addressed later.” The luteal phase may be better suited to reflection than to purely emotional reactions. 

A Few Tips

Be especially mindful of your social capacity during this time. The luteal phase is probably one of the best points in your cycle to check-in with yourself emotionally and mentally. “Find ways to spend time on your own so that you can understand how you are feeling. You may need time to keep your loud inner critic at bay,” explains Wimsett.

This phase is all about slowing down so prepare for the desire to be mentally turned up (as you were during the follicular phase) to become lesser. 

As far as physical movement goes, now is the best time to reduce exercise to less exhaustive activities. Low intensity workouts such as yoga, walking, swimming, cycling, or resistance training will be most suitable for this time. Wimsett comments on how gentle movement will work better than intense gym sessions as endurance wanes. 

Sugar cravings can also be more present at this point. Wimsett suggests meal-prepping as a way to prepare for the surge in sugary cravings. She advises that this “means you can avoid the urge to snack on more inflammatory foods, which could be to blame for period pain later down the line”. During this phase, avoiding foods that will trigger menstrual cramps and pre-menstrual bloating is key. Opting out of consuming coffee, alcohol and foods high in salt and dairy will save you pain later on. Complex carbohydrates, dark leafy greens and other high-fiber foods (think sweet potatoes, beans, bananas) will cause your body to thank you later. 

Take it Easy

Anything heavily demanding on energy levels might not be best placed in the routine during the luteal phase. Activities such as travel, which can often cause stress on the body might not only be excessive but also may lead to less tolerance or patience. In this sense, prioritising early nights may also benefit regulating mood and energy levels. “Get early nights and nurture yourself by avoiding working late. It is really important to take your lunch break and give yourself all the space you need,” adds Wimsett.  

Ultimately, this is a time for simplicity. “Keep things as simple a possible; eat nourishing meals, create comforting environments and seek solace for the best chance at surviving this phase,” says Wimsett.