This week, let’s talk about tracking our menstrual cycles.
I recently read an article that claimed that tracking your menstrual cycle fed into a narcissistic obsession with diagnosis. The article’s author claims this is part of a self-obsession, ‘the constant monitoring of ourselves and our lives’.
I beg to differ.
Understanding your menstrual cycle, where you are in it and what you experience during this time can help you tune into patterns, especially if you’ve been struggling to get on top of something particular, such as premenstrual mood changes or painful periods.
When we have a deeper understanding of what our entire menstrual cycle feels like and we remember that it is our 5th vital sign, then we can connect what’s really normal and what needs further investigation.
For example, as I’ve been talking about Instagram over the last two weeks, many of us have accepted premenstrual bloating, anxiety and pain as just a normal part of having a period and menstrual cycle. When you realise that these don’t need to be a permanent feature of your menstrual years, it can change your perspective on your expectations of your pre-menstrual phase.
So how exactly do you track your menstrual cycle?
The most important part is making it work for you. If the method you chose starts to feel onerous or like yet another task on your to-do list, then try something different. I typically suggest that my clients pick a few methods in the beginning while they’re narrowing down to the one works best. You might download a few apps (I like Moody and Flo) or use your Apple Watch or Fitbit or even just use your calendar. There are also some beautiful journals, if you prefer a pen and paper format.
You might start by simply noting the beginning and end of your period, marking the length and how you feel. You might also note when you ovulate. Remember, it’s important not to rely on an app to tell you when you’re ovulating. Just as our menstrual cycle might not always be the same number of days, we might not always ovulate on the same day each cycle! Rely on the physical signs of ovulation instead, such as changes in cervical fluid, change in cervical position and changes in energy, mood and libido.
Once you’ve got the hang of it, you can start to add in more detail. For example, during your period, you might note:
- The colour
- How heavy it is
- Any clots and their size
- Your energy levels
- Any pain and what it feels like
- Your mood
- Anything else
If you experience changes before your period, you might note when they start and how long they last.
For example, if you experience premenstrual mood changes, notice when they start, whether they’re intermittent or constant, whether you’re aware when they’re happening and whether they’re an actual reaction to something you’ve experienced or if they’re an exacerbation of existing depression or anxiety.
If at any point, it feels overwhelming, put back and return to the basics.
Eventually, you’ll get to a point when you’ll know what to expect from your menstrual cycle and your period and can pinpoint when things start to change.
Do you track your period and / or menstrual cycle? Tell me more in the comments.
Le’Nise Brothers is a yoga teacher and registered nutritionist, mBANT, mCNHC, specialising in women’s health, hormones and the menstrual cycle. She is also the host of the Period Story Podcast, which aims to break taboos around menstrual health and hormones.
Le’Nise has helped hundreds of women improve their menstrual and hormone health through her private practice and group programmes, talks and workshops for the likes of Stylist, Channel 4, Ebay and TikTok and her Instagram page. Le’Nise works primarily with women who feel like they’re being ruled by their sugar cravings, mood swings and hormonal acne & bloating. They want to get to grips with heavy, missing, irregular & painful periods, fibroids, PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, post-natal depletion and perimenopause.
Her first book You Can Have A Better Period will be released in spring 2022.
Her mission is for women to understand and embrace their hormones & menstrual cycle! If you’re looking for support with your hormone and menstrual health, click this link to book a 30 minute health review to talk about working together.