Dr Glenda McLaren
Obstetrician & Gynaecologist

A Guide to Tracking Your Menstrual Cycle

Have you ever wished you could understand your body a little better? While many of us simply wait for the telltale symptoms to signal a period is nearing, tracking your cycles more closely can provide valuable clues about your overall health and well-being. Beyond just planning for fertility, tracking your cycle empowers you to gain insights into your body’s rhythms and make informed choices about your health.

This guide from Bloom Women’s Health unveils the benefits of menstrual cycle tracking and equips you with the tools to get started.

Demystifying Your Cycle

Your menstrual cycle is the monthly process your body undergoes in preparation for pregnancy. It’s a complex interplay of hormones, with distinct phases:

  • Phase 1 – Menstruation: Menstruation (aka ‘a period’) marks the shedding of the uterine lining, triggered by a decrease in estrogen and progesterone levels. Day 1 of menstruation also marks Day 1 of your menstrual cycle, and typically lasts 3-7 days.
  • Phase 2 – Follicular Phase: Phase begins when menstruation ends and lasts until ovulation. This phase usually last 10 – 14 days (varying from person to person). During this phase, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) stimulates the ovaries to develop mature follicles, with each follicle containing an egg. Estrogen levels rise and prepare the uterine lining for potential implantation.
  • Phase 3 – Ovulatory Phase: Around mid-cycle, a surge in hormones triggers the release of a mature egg from the ovary (ovulation). This is the time when pregnancy is most likely to occur.
  • Phase 4 – Luteal Phase: After ovulation, the remaining follicle transforms into a corpus luteum, which produces progesterone. Progesterone prepares the lining of your uterus (endometrium) for a possible pregnancy.

Why Track Your Cycle

Understanding your unique cycle offers a multitude of benefits:

  • Predict Your Periods: Tracking can help you anticipate your period and avoid surprises. By identifying your typical cycle length, you can estimate when your next period is likely to arrive.
  • Unlocking Fertility: Tracking ovulation can be a valuable tool for women trying to conceive or avoid pregnancy naturally (FAM – Fertility Awareness Method). By identifying your fertile window, you can optimize your chances of conception or use this knowledge for natural birth control.
  • Manage PMS Symptoms: Many women experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms like mood swings, bloating, and cramps. Tracking your cycle can help you recognize patterns and anticipate these symptoms. Armed with this knowledge, you can take steps to mitigate the impact of PMS on your daily life.
  • Maximise energy: During Phases 2 and 3 of the menstrual cycle, many women experience an energy boost. Plan your more intensive workouts, adventures and spring-cleaning activities during these phases, when possible. Remember to be kind to yourself, allow rest, and stick to lower intensity exercise/movement activities during Phases 1 and 4, particularly if you experience fatigue or pain.
  • Nutrition & Hydration: Try to maintain a balanced diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals throughout your cycles, to support overall health, general and reproductive function. Consider batch cooking some nutritious foods during phases 2 and 3 of your cycle, to maximise your increased energy and ensure healthy, nutritionally balanced foods are available during your entire menstrual cycle – especially when the energy levels dip and cravings for less nutritious foods kick in during phases 1 and 4.
  • Overall Health Insights: Your menstrual cycle can be a window into your overall health. Changes in your cycle length, regularity, or bleeding patterns can sometimes indicate underlying health issues. Tracking your cycle allows you to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider.

How to Track

Tracking your cycle is a simple yet empowering practice. Here are some methods to get you started:

  • The Calendar Method: This classic approach involves marking the start and end dates of your period on a calendar (paper or digital). It’s a straightforward way to gain a basic understanding of your cycle length.
  • Mobile Apps: Numerous user-friendly period tracker apps are available. These apps allow you to log your period dates, symptoms, moods, and other factors. Many apps also provide cycle predictions and insights based on your data.
  • Basal Body Temperature (BBT) Tracking: Monitoring your daily BBT can help identify ovulation. Your BBT typically shows a slight rise after ovulation. It’s important to note that BBT tracking requires consistent daily temperature readings and can be more time-consuming than other methods. Consult a healthcare professional for detailed guidance on BBT tracking and interpreting data.

Understanding Your Cycle Data

Once you start tracking, you’ll accumulate valuable data about your cycle. Here’s how to make sense of it:

  • Analysing Your Data: Pay attention to your cycle length (number of days between periods), regularity (consistency of your cycle length), and any patterns in bleeding heaviness or PMS symptoms.
  • Cycle Variations: It’s normal for menstrual cycles to vary slightly from month to month. Stress, diet, exercise, and illness can all influence your cycle. Don’t be alarmed by occasional variations; however, consistent changes might warrant a conversation with your GP or gynaecologist.

Partnering with Bloom Women’s Health for your wellness

At Bloom Women’s Health, we empower women to understand their bodies and make informed choices about their well-being.

Open communication with your healthcare provider(s) is crucial when it comes to your menstrual health. Be sure to discuss any concerns you may have about your cycle or any changes you experience with your GP or gynaecologist.

Ready to take charge of your menstrual health? Contact Bloom Women’s Health today to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced healthcare providers. We’ll work together to address your individual needs and support you on your journey towards optimal health and well-being.