How to Track Your Menstrual Cycle
8 March 2023 | Admin
As soon as you first see those tell-tale streaks of blood on a tissue or in your knickers, you know your life has changed for the next 40-ish years.
Once a month (unless you're pregnant), your menstrual cycle will run it's course, starting with your 'period'.
At almost 50 now (!), I've hit peri-menopause and I now have pretty irregular periods. However it's still really important for me to track my cycle. Why? Let me explain.
What Is Your Menstrual Cycle?
Your menstrual cycle is the time from the first day of your period to the day before her next period.
For most women, this means regular cycles of anywhere from 21 to 35 days, with 28 days being the 'average'.
Your ovarian cycle is broken down into three distinct phases:
What is the follicular phase of your menstrual cycle?
The follicular phase of your menstrual cycle starts with your period, which is the body flushing out blood and thickened lining of your uterus from your previous cycle which is no longer needed.
During your period your levels of oestrogen and progesterone are at their lowest point. This is what causes the tissue & blood to release and leave your body.
Once your period passes, you start to prepare for ovulation. Increased oestrogen signals to the body to start thickening the womb lining to catch that egg once released.
What is ovulation?
Ovulation is the point in your menstrual cycle when an egg is released and sent off down the fallopian tubes. Roughly mid-cycle (in and around day 14) your oestrogen levels peak sending a signal to your brain. This causes your body to produce luteinizing hormone which causes the egg to be released. At this point your oestrogen levels start to fall again.
What is the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle?
The luteal phase of your menstrual cycle starts once you have ovulated and lasts until your period starts, lasting around 14 days or so.
During this phase progrestone grows and peaks in order to support pregnancy. If you don't get pregnant, it drops off again. This drop off in oestrogen and progesterone is what triggers your period and the cycle starts again.
These hormonal changes are the cause of PMT, which can cause headaches, mood swings, tender boobs and feeling bloated. Fun!
Why Track Your Period?
It's important to track your period because:
No one likes to be caught with no period protection on their person. God knows we have ALL stuffed toilet paper in our knickers at some point.
Tracking your period means you'll know roughly when your period is due and can pop on a pair of period pants for a couple of days beforehand. Or grab your wetbag of reusable pads, ready to go!
Some people have periods every 23 days, some every 35 and anywhere in between is normal. By tracking your period, you'll soon get to understand what is 'normal' for you and what's not.
Without sounding too 'woo' tracking your periods brings awareness of your overall health and how fantastic the female body is! Every month, we have the ability to conceive even if we choose not to. Understanding your menstrual period and it's peaks and troughs are a great way to appreciate your body and everything it can do.
Whether you're trying to conceive or trying NOT to conceive, tracking your periods is useful in knowing your fertile window and therefore when to be careful if you're not using birth control.
Many period trackers also allow you to track other symptoms. If you suffer with mid-month ovulation pain, then this can also be tracked. Knowledge is power!
During the luteal phase, the drop in oestrogen and progesterone can make sporting activities (and everything else) seem just harder work. Listen to your body. You may need an extra rest day or just take it a little bit easier during this phase.
The upside to this is that during the follicular phase of your cycle, everything seems much easier by comparison. #brightside
This is so important. It's the reason why, suddenly, your partner appears to be breathing too loudly and you feel like screaming as a result. Or why the bus being late and full can have you crying your eyes out.
Knowing that your period is due, can help give some perspective on why you're feeling like you do. It also reminds you that this too shall pass.
How to Track Your Menstrual Cycle
To track your menstrual cycle, you can:
Many smart watches have built in functionality to help track your monthly cycle. Fitbit and Apple Watch both offer service and as you'll always have your watch on your person, it's easy to keep track of.
This was my preferred method of tracking my period. I used the 'Clue' app which I found easy to use and it was free to use too. However my 11 year old daughter really rates the 'Flo' app.
Women's Health Mag recently published a great article reviewing period apps, which is well worth a read.
No matter which online calendar you use, it's easy to add an entry each time your period makes an appearance. Top tip - add a different colour to the entry and make it stand out, so you can see at a glance of the monthly calendar when you were last 'on'.
Old school but this still works. If you're the sort who prefers pen and paper, simply jot a note in your diary each time your period arrives. If there's a month at a glance option, simply highlight the day by circling it.
We hope you enjoyed this article. If you did, these might also be of interest for further reading:
About the Author: Helen Rankin is founder of Cheeky Wipes, the original environmentally sustainable baby wipes kit, founded in 2008. Fast forward a few more years and having 4 children meant that internal period protection was no longer an option, so Helen developed the range of Cheeky Pants & Pads. The Cheeky Team pride themselves on helping people make the switch to reusables EASY, nothing is TMI! Cheeky Wipes were awarded the Queens Award for Enterprise for their sustainable development goals in 2021.