We usually only hear about tracking our periods and ovulation in one context: pregnancy. Whether you’re trying to conceive or avoiding pregnancy, this is the main reason we start thinking about when we have our periods and whether or not they’re falling regularly. However, there are many reasons we should track our cycles for our overall health and it’s a shame we aren’t taught to do so or how to do so at an early age. But we’re here now, and it’s never too late to begin caring for your overall health. Let’s get into some great reasons to track your period whether you’re trying to conceive or not.
Tracking for General Health
When your doctor asks you to name the date of your last period, are you spot on or are you racking your brain for any answer that slightly resembles what maybe was kind of close to your last period? If you’re anything like me, you mighttt be in that latter category. Doctors ask this question to make sure your periods are normal (for you) and there isn’t any suspected hormonal imbalance they should look out for. Did you know that your baby’s due date is based off of the first day of your last menstrual cycle? It seems like we should have a better idea of what’s going on when it comes to our cycles.
There are many common health risks for women that present themselves through an irregular period. PCOS, fibroids, pelvic inflammatory disease and endometriosis are some of these health issues that can result in an irregular period. Or maybe you’re experiencing super long periods (more than 7 days) or very painful periods and you think it’s just normal. These symptoms are usually not normal and tracking them and your cycle length can help doctors find solutions to relieve these problems that you don’t have to suffer through.
Getting in Tune with Your Body
Possibly one of the greatest reasons to track is to know your body and its patterns. This will help with the general health issues we just discussed, as well as many others. How nice would it be to immediately know something is off with your cycle or your body? To confidently say “this is not normal for me?” That’s when you can nip health risks in the bud and get to your OBGYN ASAP.
Knowing your cycle and body intimately goes beyond just knowing what’s happening down there. Think of all of the other symptoms that come along with your period: uncomfortable bloating, breakouts, changes in sleep and cravings just to name a few. When you’re tracking your cycle and symptoms, you may realize that each time you exercise you experience less bloating or that you’re prone to breakouts 3-4 days prior to your period and you can take proactive measures to alleviate these symptoms. So your next period can be bloating and breakout-free. Doesn’t that sound like the dream?
Staying on Top of Your Birth Control
Are you always forgetting to take that dang pill? There are tracking apps that help with just that. There are many reasons women take birth control. Whether it’s to prevent pregnancy or to relieve some of those awful menstrual side effects that many women experience, not missing a day is so important when it comes to your health. There are trackers that will remind you to take your pill on days when it slips your mind, but I’ll even bet just getting to know your body more intimately will be a helpful reminder.
How to Track Your Period
There are so many benefits to tracking your cycle and we definitely didn’t cover them all here. If you are trying to conceive, the benefits to tracking are obvious. If you’re not quite ready yet, imagine how great it would be to already know your body’s patterns when you are ready? And if you don’t wish to conceive, it’s still so important to know your health and to keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary. So, what’s the best way to track your period? There are a few.
Period Tracker Apps
There are many apps to begin tracking your cycle. Spot On is an app created by Planned Parenthood that’s great for people using birth control. Apps like Flo and Clue are great options for people simply looking to track their cycles and symptoms for better general health and knowing your body. If you’re looking to track your period and ovulation, apps like OvaGraph and OVIA could be right for you. These useful tools make it easy to get started with the tracking process and guide you through the best ways to keep track of your symptoms and behaviors during these times.
Phoneless Period Tracking
Maybe apps aren’t your thing or writing down your symptoms on paper helps you remember. You can definitely track without an app by just knowing the basics and counting for yourself.
- Your menstruation (when you’re bleeding) should last anywhere from 2-7 days.
- Track your “cycle” by counting from the first day of menstruation all the way to the next time you begin menstruating. This is typically around 28 days, but according to the Mayo Clinic anywhere from 21 to 35 days is considered normal. Learning what’s normal for you personally will be most important in knowing when something is off.
- Keep a log of your symptoms and behaviors. Maybe you always feel bloated in the first 2 days of your period and then it subsides. Write down anything you notice about your body and what behaviors you have during this time (i.e. eating a lot of sugar on day 1 or light exercise on day 2.)
- You can keep this log on a calendar or in a notebook that’s easy to take in when you see your healthcare provider.
If you decide to use an app, there are all kinds of choices out there. There are even apps dedicated to athletes! Do your research and find what fits best with your needs. If you feel your needs are pretty basic, some of the options we listed here may be good for you. If tracking feels overwhelming, start with just tracking your period and cycle dates and ease into tracking your symptoms and other information over time. Having a normal menstrual cycle is a vital aspect of our health as women and the best way to know you’re right on track is to know if your period is normal for your body. Here’s to better periods (because we shouldn’t have to suffer through them,) and agency over our health (because we deserve it.)