The corpeus luteum - sounds like a Harry Potter character right?
Well, this little sucker is one of the key reasons we either menstruate or sustain a healthy pregnancy. For a bit of context, let’s look at the make up of the term. Corpus means body (think corpse), and luteum means yellow, so by definition corpus luteum means ‘Yellow Body’. So if it helps to call it Yellow Body, I’d say go for it.
As we discussed in the article, 'Understanding The Female Ovulation Cycle', the latter stage of the menstrual cycle (days 15 - 30 or so) is called the ‘Luteus phase’, which is in fact named after the activity of this yellow body, corpus luteum.
Leading up to ovulation, eggs begin to harvest in follices within the ovaries, conventionality called the Follicle phase. The eggs mature thanks to a handy hormone called the Luteus hormone or LH. With the help of a quick surge of the luteus hormone, one of the eggs matures enough to break free of its follicle and go on its journey toward the uterus - this is ovulation. The remnants of this broken folilcle doesn’t just disappear. No, in fact the remaining part of the follicle is an extremely important feature of menstruation or pregnancy and known as…. the corpus luteum, the yellow body. Hurrah, we got there!
So why is it important?
The main purpose of the corpus luteum is to produce more progesterone from our ovaries during the second half of the menstrual cycle, the Luteus phase. Progesterone is a key hormone that stimulates the uterus lining wall to thicken in preparation for pregnancy. If we became pregnant, this thick uterus wall houses the egg, our future bub. Low levels of progesterone can be dangerous because it means the uterus lining can’t develop properly, which may lead to menstrual irregularity, or even worse, issues with pregnancy such as miscarriage. In essence, a poorly constructed home for our egg cannot sustain its development - makes sense right?
If we are not pregnant, the corpus luteum dies as it were, signalling the end of the lluteus phase, and therefore we stop producing progesterone from the ovaries. Our uterus lining wall then begins to shed since it is not needed to house the egg, and ultimately bleeding begins.
If we are pregnant, the corpus luteum continues to produce progesterone, but around week 10 or so, it hands over the reigns to the placenta to produce progesterone for the embryo until the end of pregnancy.
So you can see this complex little yellow body that’s created by discarded follicle matter (sexy huh?) is extremely important to our menstrual regularity and healthy pregnancy - not a small feat by any standards.
This article is for educational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose any condition or act as a replacement for a medical consultation.