For years, my period was a big, annoying mystery. My period would come every 2 weeks and then every 8. I would get super low blood pressure and almost pass out. I had an ovarian cyst removed. And things didn’t improve. I bounced around from doctor to doctor, trying whatever we could to figure out what was wrong.
And then, 10 years after starting this exploration, I found the answer I needed in a book. I was reading “Taking Charge of your Fertility” by Toni Weschler, and there was one simple line that explained it all. I learned that my periods were irregular because my estrogen wasn’t getting high enough to trigger ovulation regularly. Instead it was rising and falling, causing breakthrough bleeding (but not a real period) at random intervals.
The answer was so simple. From that book, I also learned that this information about my hormones was always accessible to me. Through menstrual cycle tracking, my body didn’t have to be a mystery. I could take health into my own hands.
Monitoring your menstrual cycle can be incredibly useful. Menstrual cycle tracking can help you
- better estimate when your period is going to come.
- promote or prevent pregnancy.
- track your hormonal health.
- have the information needed to reduce PMS and period symptoms or issues.
Why not just use a regular tracking app?
I wrote a blog post about when using a simple app is (or isn’t) useful for tracking your menstrual cycle. In short, these apps make a lot of assumptions about ovulation and menstruation dates that can be incredibly inaccurate if you’re having any period issues or irregularities. They also don’t give you the actual insights into your body and physiology can be most useful to you.
So let’s dive into a few ways that you can track your menstrual cycle and gain this powerful and empowering information.
Menstrual Cycle Tracking Strategy 1: Basal Body Temperature
Did you know that your basal body temperature (BBT) changes according to your hormone levels? It’s true! More progesterone equals a higher temp (which can also be why pregnant folks run so hot!)
Because your body temperature changes with your hormones, you can use your BBT to help track your ovulation and onset of menstruation.
To take your BBT:
- You need an accurate, under the tongue thermometer.
- Take your temperature first thing in the morning – even before you get out of bed!
- Aim to take your BBT around the same time each day – if there are huge swings (like you sleep until noon one day), that temperature is likely to be inaccurate.
What you’ll find:
- Your BBT will jump around seemingly randomly for a few weeks, then it will have a sudden spike that is sustained. This spike happens the day after ovulation occurs.
- The temperature will stay higher for 10-14 days and then begin to fall. The drop in your BBT signals menstruation is about to begin.
- If the temperature stays at the higher level for 18 days or more, you’re very likely pregnant!
- Cheap and easy
- Not invasive
- Gives you more information after you’ve ovulated rather than before.
- For folks with high vata dosha, these temperatures can be more variable and need to be tracked accurately.
- It can be annoying or hard to remember.
Menstrual Cycle Tracking Strategy 2: Cervical Mucus
Your vagina makes fluid and mucus that changes throughout your cycle. When you’re close to ovulation, the cervical mucus actually creates a more watery structure that allows sperm to swim up and fertilize the egg. When you’re not ovulating, the cervical mucus is more dry and sticky, keeping sperm away from the egg.
You can notice these changes relatively easily simply when you wipe with toilet paper after going to the bathroom.
How to track your cervical mucus:
- When you go to the bathroom, wipe and notice if there is any residue.
- Note if the cervical mucus is dry/non-existent, tacky and sticky, stretchy and fluid, or creamy.
- You don’t need to track every time you wipe, but make notes of changes or very obvious mucus.
What you’ll find:
- There is a pattern! Around ovulation, you’ll start to have more mucus and it will move from creamy to more fluid, clear, and stretchy – sort of like an egg white.
- You’ll have a day with the “most” wet/stretchy mucus, which indicates ovulation.
- After ovulation, the cervical mucus will get more tacky before disappearing.
- Cheap and easy!
- Relatively obvious/easy to track.
- More invasive.
- Doesn’t give direct information on when your menstrual cycle will start.
- Semen can affect the mucus 1-2 days after sex, so it might confuse your results (though it is possible to distinguish semen vs cervical mucus).
Menstrual Cycle Tracking Strategy 3: App-Assisted Technology
There are a few trackers on the market that combine technology (like a thermometer or bracelet) with an app that helps analyze the information. Daysy and Ava are the ones I’m most familiar with. These trackers can be great, especially if you need a little help in understanding the information. I do have to warn you, though, that these trackers can still be inaccurate, particularly if you don’t follow the “normal” 28 day cycle. I’ve had these apps be incredibly inaccurate in estimating my ovulation date, even when I give it information that should trigger it to say “YEP, that’s when she ovulated.” So if you have irregular cycles or are using these apps to help improve your chances of conceiving, you want to be sure that you understand the information and aren’t relying solely on the app’s data.
- Reduces some of user error
- Makes consistent tracking easier
- Analyzes and uses algorithms
- Not 100% accurate – can be confusing if you have irregular cycles.
- You are still outsourcing this important knowledge.
The bottom line
Period tracking can be a game-changer for understanding yourself and your health. It’s incredibly empowering to know what your hormones are doing, when you’re ovulating and menstruating, and how to best support your body and energy.
Importantly, tracking your menstrual cycle empowers you with critical information if you’re facing period irregularities or annoying or painful PMS and menstrual symptoms. From your tracking, you can tie symptoms throughout your menstrual cycle to different activities and routines and take the next step towards alleviating those symptoms and normalizing your hormones.
- Get rid of PMS symptoms, regulate your period, and (if you want) boost fertility! Sign up for an Ayurvedic consultation with me.
- Leave a comment below – have you done menstrual cycle tracking? Excited to start? What method do you use?
- Check out this blog to understand your period and PMS symptoms and how to support them.