Period tracking: How to get started
29th May 2020
Menstrual health day is all about education and one way to educate yourself about your body is by tracking your cycle. Period tracking is about much more than just your period. Tracking your menstrual cycle can help you better understand your body and the unique physical, hormonal and emotional patterns that you experience. Having this information and becoming the expert of your monthly rhythms means you can find ways to work effectively with it and make changes to optimise your health and wellbeing.
Why should I track my period?
One of our missions here at Adia, is to help people become experts of their bodies and health and tracking your cycle is part of that, but how?
Understand your hormonal health
Menstrual cycles are led by hormonal changes that occur in our bodies. The average cycle length is usually 28 days, but for many menstruating people this can vary from 21 to 40-day cycles. Periods and cycles are personal, so getting to know yours can help you get to grips with what your ‘normal’ is. For example, if your period is irregular, extremely heavy, painful or disappears for months on end this could signal underlying imbalances or problems. The more aware you are of what’s going on, you’re then in a better position to get a diagnosis and support.
Understand your general physical and emotional health
These hormonal changes don’t just affect if and when we ovulate and have a bleed, they also influence many other aspects of our lives and wellbeing too. From productivity and sex drive to mood and energy levels, periods and hormones can be a great indicator of overall health. It all comes back to being the expert of your own body. Knowing how these different aspects vary with your hormone cycle can help you plan and manage better. From implementing wellbeing practices such as our meditations to eating nutritious comforting meals to match your increased appetite the week of your cycle, tracking helps you take better care of yourself.
Know when you’re fertile
Knowing the length of your cycle and understanding the signs of fertility (cervix height, cervical mucous and temperature) can help you know when your fertile window is. This is the period leading up to and just after ovulation. Knowing this can help you plan both if you are looking to conceive and also if you are not but do not use contraception.
Get a quicker diagnosis
If you are experiencing worrying symptoms, then your doctor may ask you to track your cycle for at least 3-4 months so that they can get a better understanding of what you are going through. This can then help them to diagnose and support you. However, it does take 3-4 months to collect this information. If you start tracking before issues arise, you can go to your doctor with the facts and also with more confidence in highlighting to them exactly where your concerns lie.
6 Tips for tracking your period
How do I track my period?
Tracking your cycle is relatively simple. Although there are many great apps out there (we love Moody Month and Clue), a simple notebook will also suffice. Members of our team have even tracked their cycles on their Instagram stories too, here and here. It’s more about what you choose to track and find the easiest way to log your observations and make sense of what it all means.
When should I start tracking my cycle?
The easiest time to start tracking your cycle is actually on day 1 of your cycle, which is the first day of your bleed. Starting here means that you’ll be able to easily measure the length of your bleed as well as the length of your total cycle (the number of days from the first day of your last period to the first day of your next period). Over a few months, you’ll then be able to see if your cycle and the length of your period of regular. This will give you a good indication whether your hormone levels are rising and falling as they should be and if you’re ovulating regularly too.
If there is spotting in between periods, irregularity in the length of your bleed and/ or in the length of your cycle, this could indicate further problems such as PCOS or a hormone imbalance and you may wish to speak to one of our experts or book an appointment with your GP.
Which symptoms should I track during my period?
Next on your list of things to track are the symptoms you experience during your bleed. This can be anything from pain to blood flow, energy levels, appetite, sex drive, skin changes, water retention and mood. Initially, it may be easier to choose a few key symptoms that you experience regularly rather than starting with the whole list.
The important thing here is to get as granular as possible. For example, if you’re tracking pain, note down not just if you feel pain, but also where you feel the pain and how intense it is. If you choose to look at your energy levels, then also take into account your schedule, any exercise you do and even how many hours of sleep you’re getting. Many things can be attributed to our hormones and periods, but we can’t forget the impact that our lifestyle has on us too.
Which symptoms and signs should I track between periods?
As we said before, tracking doesn’t stop when your period ends and it will need to be a mixture of symptoms and lifestyle factors. There are four phases of your menstrual cycle and menstruation is just one of them. After your bleed you enter into the follicular phase, then ovulation and finally the luteal phase just before their period. Tracking your cycle means getting in touch with your physical and emotional rhythms throughout all four of these phases.
The signs and symptoms you may choose to observe and monitor during the phases between your period are similar to the ones you would track whilst on your period. Apart from the heaviness of your bleed, pain, energy levels, sex drive and the others mentioned above are all things you can keep an eye on overtime. They may seem less obvious or consistent, but taking the time to check in with yourself and how you’re feeling can bring your awareness to the nuances you experience throughout your cycle.
How long should I track my period for?
It may take a while to get into the rhythm of recording information about your cycle every day but once you do, it will become second nature. If you are experiencing issues, then 3-4 cycles is enough for your doctor to get a clear picture of what is going in. However, there really is no maximum limit to how long you can track your cycle for. The more information you have, the easier it is to see patterns and how both your internal hormonal factors and external lifestyle factors ( work, holidays, seasons etc) affect you too.
What do I do with the information?
Aside from gaining a deeper insight into the inner workings of your body and cycle, tracking your cycle can also help you to make positive changes to your lifestyle and routine. This could be anything from making dietary changes to boost energy levels or reduce bloating at different times in your cycle to not booking important meetings on the first day of your period. Being an expert of your body means you can confidently make the changes that will make your cycle more comfortable and ensure you feel empowered and confident too.
If you do have any concerns about your period, cycle and hormones, then please message our experts.