You have probably heard your friends talking about tracking their menstrual cycle or you have been tracking your own for a while, but you may not understand why or what you are doing, this post is for you!
The easiest way to track your menstrual cycle is on one of the many free period tracking phone apps including Kindara, Flo, Clue or Ovia. Alternatively, you can download a simple paper chart. You then take notice and record the physical and emotional signs and symptoms throughout your whole menstrual cycle, not just your period.
Your menstrual cycle should not feel like complex algebra, take time to understand it and feel empowered by the intricate workings of your body. It is important to remember everyone is different and unique, understand and connect with YOUR body, you won’t regret it.
Why should I track my menstrual cycle?
- To understand and connect with the natural hormonal phases of your feminine being.
- To assist with conception
- To avoid conception
- When regulating your cycle after coming off the pill
- To understand symptoms of hormone conditions including PCOS, endometriosis.
What should I track and how?
The reason for tracking your menstrual cycle will determine how detailed your tracking method is. For instance, if you are intrigued to understand more about the 4 phases of the menstrual cycle or you are regulating your cycle after coming off the pill you may only need to track your menstrual cycle symptoms and signs of ovulation. If you are tracking your cycle for conception or avoidance of conception it is recommended that you also track basal body temperature and cervical mucous production. Please be aware that using this as a method of contraception requires diligent training and education, for more information and resources please visit fertilitycharting.com.au
Taking notice of the signs and symptoms throughout your menstrual cycle offers a great insight into your hormones and enables you to understand the natural phases of your body. I find the following list of items to record helpful when beginning.
- Menstruation: length of cycle (number of days between the 1st day of a period and the first day of the next period), the number of days you experience bleeding, days of spotting, flow (amount of blood), colour of blood, evidence of clots or pain.
- Cervical secretions: amount, colour, quality: clear, stretchy, sticky, slippery.
- Physical feelings: abdominal cramps, pain, headaches, energy levels, breast tenderness, fluid retention, food cravings, insomnia.
- Emotional feelings: mood, happiness, irritation, anxiety, depression, libido
- Sexual intercourse: protected and unprotected
SIGNS OF OVULATION
While it is said that ovulation takes place on day 14-16 of your cycle, this is not always the case. It depends on how long your cycles is, if your cycle is regular and if you are actually ovulating. Once you begin tracking your cycle for a while you will start to notice the signs of ovulation and be able to plan your actions around this. Signs to look out for include:
- Fertile mucous
- Temperature drop and rapid spike on BBT
- LH surge (this is what ovulation test kit measures)
- Increased libido
BASAL BODY TEMPERATURE
Your basal body temperature (BBT) fluctuates throughout your menstrual cycle due to the influence of specific hormones. Therefore, charting your BBT can give you an insight into what is happening with your hormones. While all women are unique there is an expected temperature pattern that should occur throughout a healthy cycle, if this is not occurring your hormones may require attention. To chart your BBT there are a few important things to know:
- You will need a digital thermometer accurate to 2 decimal places.
- The temperature must be a vaginal reading for accuracy.
- The temperature should be taken at the same time each day and it must be preceded by 3 hours sleep.
- You must record your readings daily.
Note: It is best to take the reading upon waking while still in bed, as any movement or activity will raise your body temperature and give you an incorrect reading. If you wake really early in the morning (for example to go to the toilet) and you know that you will not get another 3 hours of solid sleep it is best to take the temperature at the time of early waking.