“Why should I track my menstrual cycle”?
It seems like every woman uses a period tracker intermittently during their adolescent/adult life. Most commonly, people track their period to determine if they could be pregnant. However, tracking your cycle is the first step in understanding your fertility. In fact, changes in your menstrual cycle are indicators of certain medical issues that cause infertility. These concerns can be identified early when tracking different aspects of your cycle regularly and speaking with your physician. Everyone is different and understanding your cycle will give you insights into your body. And, we promise, it is really easy! All you need is a pen and paper.
Once you are ready to track your cycle, here are the most important things to note:
• Your period – The first step to tracking your cycle is to make note of the days you menstruate. The day you start bleeding is going to be Day 1. It is also important to make note of the last day you bleed, which could be anywhere from day two to day eight.
• Your cervical fluid – You can still learn about your body when your period ends. You can write down the changes in your vaginal discharge, which include changes in color, consistency, and odor.
• Physical symptoms – Many women experience cramps during their period. You may experience other physical symptoms that are linked to your cycle as well. Write down the days you experience symptoms like cramping, back pain, breast tenderness, and headaches and the intensity of the symptom on a scale of 1-10.
• Psychological symptoms – Much like physical symptoms, there may be psychological or emotional symptoms tied to your cycle. Write down your mood at least once a day, especially if your mood varies greatly from normal.
As you continue to track these factors, you will start to see patterns related to your reproductive health. You can take this information to your primary care physician or OB/GYN to discuss your menstrual health in more detail. If you notice any of the following irregularities, be sure to speak with your physician:
• Your period lasts less than two or more than eight days
• You have change your tampon or pad every hour
• There is less than 21 or more than 35 days between day one of each period
• You notice physical or psychological symptoms that interfere with your daily activities
• Spotting (bleeding between periods)
Using a period tracking app can make tracking your reproductive health even easier. Most apps help you visualize patterns, have preset symptoms to choose, and can remind you to log your information daily. Look for apps that provide additional information like an emailed summary of your last cycle when a new one starts. This will make communicating with your doctor even easier. Whether you write in a journal or use an app on your phone, tracking your menstrual cycle consistently will help you understand your health and your body better.