Definition - What does Luteal Support mean?
Luteal support is the use of a hormonal medication, such as progesterone, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) or a gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) analog, to support the functioning of the corpus luteum, which in turn, promotes implantation and early development of the embryo. Some evidence suggests that IVF success rates are higher when progesterone is used for luteal support. Using GnRH analogs further optimizes the results.
FertilitySmarts explains Luteal Support
During a normal menstrual cycle, the rupture of the ovarian follicle and the consequent release of an egg (ovulation) are followed by the luteal phase, which is the period between ovulation and either the occurrence of a pregnancy or the beginning of a menstrual period around two weeks later. If pregnancy occurs, the leftover mass from the ovulated egg turns into the corpus luteum. This yellow body produces hormones, primarily progesterone, which functions to prepare the uterus for implantation.
During IVF, a woman's pituitary gland is desensitized with hormonal medications in order to stimulate the ovaries in a controlled manner. This yields mature eggs, which are collected and fertilized outside a woman’s system. However, excessive stimulation of the ovaries can produce a defect in the luteal phase, such that the corpus luteum fails to produce enough progesterone. This, in turn, may minimize the odds of implantation of a fertilized egg. A low progesterone level, thus, needs to be addressed to support the luteal phase with the help of hormonal medications like:
- Progesterone, which prepares the uterus for implantation of a fertilized egg
- hCG, which maintains the corpus luteum and its progesterone production
- GnRH analogs, which desensitize the pituitary gland to prevent a premature, spontaneous luteinizing hormone (LH) rise in stimulated cycles, which could otherwise compromise the chances of a successful pregnancy
In contrast to the above-listed medications, the use of other medications like growth hormone and aspirin in IVF has failed to show an overall benefit.