Today I wanted to talk about tracking and charting your menstrual cycle. I didn’t even know that period tracking was a thing until my late 20s, and I wish I had known about it earlier. It would have cleared up a lot of anxiety and uncertainty around my irregular periods, helped me to understand what was happening in my body, and ultimately be able to take action to help regulate my cycles and improve my well-being.
A critical part of menstrual cycle tracking is shifting from a mindset that our period blood is a waste product to seeing how our entire menstrual cycle is an indicator of our health. There’s information to be gleaned about the entire month, not just when our period shows up. And, as I’ve shared before, our periods themselves can tell us a lot about what’s going on in our bodies.
The most familiar form of menstrual cycle tracking is to use an app on your phone that tells you when your period is going to show up (and possibly shows estimated ovulation dates).
These apps can work well for some! If you have very regular cycles, these apps can be accurate and useful for knowing when to expect your period. If you have irregular periods, you’ve probably noticed the limitations of these trackers (and there’s more on that below).
These period tracker apps are also not great at telling us about ovulation. Many of them assume that ovulation happens exactly 14 days before your period, but that’s not true for most people. Rather, ovulation tends to happen 9-14 days before you get your period.
Information about when we ovulate is important because it tells us when we can get pregnant, as well as give us information on the state of our progesterone levels. Folks with a very short luteal phase – the time between ovulation and the period – tend to have lower progesterone levels. Knowing when we ovulate can also help us sync our activities and routines to our menstrual cycle and keep track of symptoms and issues that may be occurring.
So while these period trackers can be helpful in telling you when to expect to bleed, they can’t be used for deeper investigation and information about fertility.
If you have irregular periods, period tracker apps become useless at best and harmful at worst. These trackers can incorrectly state ovulation and expected period dates, which can really mess with you if you’re trying to get pregnant, or if you’re just trying to understand your state of health and well-being. It can mess up timing if you’re trying to achieve (or prevent) pregnancy, and make it unclear when/if you should take a pregnancy test. If you have irregular periods, the ovulation estimates are most certainly incorrect.
Luckily, there are some other ways to track what’s going on in your body so you can more accurately predict ovulation, menstruation, and symptoms so you can optimize your period and manage your well-being. They require a little more time and attention, but the results can be fabulous, particularly if you’re wanting to balance your health or are wanting to get pregnant.
To chart your menstrual cycle, you can use your temperature, vaginal mucus, and cervix position to help you understand where you are in your menstrual cycle. In our next post, I’ll be sharing how you can use these tools to understand your menstrual cycle.
For now, I’d love to hear from you – do you chart your menstrual cycle and what do you use to do so? How’s your current method working for you?
Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day,