Tracking your menstrual cycle : all you need to know
Periods are a mainstay in our lives, and for those of you lucky enough to have a regular cycle, they’re monthly visitors. One way or the other, if you’re regular or irregular, getting complacent about tracking them is a big no-no. Tracking your cycle is crucial for a number of reasons, majorly including getting to know your body. For all those in the reproductive age, this one’s a must if you’re trying to be on either side of the pregnancy spectrum. Closely tracking your cycles isn’t needed only to avoid giving a blank stare when asked the date of your last period, but because it makes it easier to assess your overall health.
Why track your cycle?
1. Learn your natural rhythm : First and foremost, you must know how your body functions. Each body differs, and a rule that applies to one cycle might not apply to yours. Be mindful of your own menstrual cycle and know what suits your body.
2. Manage your PMS :
What’s better than being able to tame your PMS monster mood swings? Once you know what’s coming next with your periods, it will be better for you to analyze and work on emotional changes and mood variations.
3. Plan your social calendar :
No more ‘what if my dates clash’. Tracking your cycle will make it crystal clear for you to decide on when to plan your girls trip, a beach vacay, or a perfect weekend get-away.
4. Mind your health : Pay attention to key indicators that define your body’s functionality. This makes it easy to identify symptoms that stand out, and tell you what’s normal and what isn’t.
5. How it helps your reproductive health : Also called as FAM- fertility awareness method. Knowing when you are ovulating and charting out safe and unsafe days for sex can enhance your odds of getting pregnant. Generally, ovulation occurs 14 days before the start of your next period.
There are multiple ways for you to track your cycle:
1. Do it your way:
· Note day 1 of your cycle: This is the day you actually start bleeding. The average length of a cycle is usually 21-35 days, and bleeding lasts from 2-7 days, but may vary from body to body. The frequency and length of your cycle may be altered due to various reasons like stress, exercise, diet, or contraception.
· Track your physical symptoms: Like your flow, intensity of cramps, breast tenderness, and vaginal discharge.
· Track your emotional symptoms: It’s time to pay attention to and address PMS. Note down anxiety, depression, appetite changes, and the sources of stress that affect you.
· Repeat this monthly
2. Use Tracking Apps:
· Thanks to technology, various apps do the job for you and help you ‘visualize’ fertility. This way, you have everything you need to know at your fingertips. In addition to your dates, they also evaluate your mood swings, weight, emotions, and sex life. The most accurate trackers also indicate basal body temperature, changes in cervical fluid, ovulatory pain, and the like, which make this easier than ever.
· Do it the old-fashioned way: Mark days on the calendar and use different colors and symbols to indicate the beginning and end of your cycle. You can also maintain a period journal.
· Use an online calendar: If you’re too lazy for the paper and pen way, online calendars are the way to go. These tools go a step ahead and accentuate your experience with monthly reports and reminders!
· Predictor kits: This is another good way to monitor ovulation, which are available in drug stores. The kits use hormones to accurately tell you when you’re ovulating.
Having said this, trackers are not a foolproof way of birth control. Some disadvantages come along potential downsides to period tracking apps. A lot of your intimate details are put up online, and could be used to sell to third parties, leading to serious repercussions. If an app lets you opt out of sharing vulnerable data (which is typically buried in small, fine print) always do so.
Once you know your cycle and all the symptoms it brings along, use the information to prepare for a tough week ahead and gear up for your period. For example, if you know your periods are close and feel bloated, stay off caffeine, salty foods, and sugar rushes. Bad periods are not something you need to go through.
With PCOS/PCOD on the rise, tracking your cycle is a great way to manage irregular periods. The many reasons behind these can also be eating disorders, fibroids, diabetes, or thyroid. Menstrual irregularities are common, but know when to visit a doctor.
Written by Nibha Patil
Cover by Khyati Patkar