As you have probably heard me say many times: your menstrual cycle is your monthly report card.
And I want to take it one step further today: every female of menstrual cycle age should be cycle tracking.
While it’s amazing to see menstrual cycle education in schools these days, most women I meet have never been taught about their cycle and are certainly not aware of the essential nature of ovulation, not only for progesterone production and reproductive health, but mood, bones and longevity (as a start). And really, if you’re not optimising progesterone, you’re not optimising your health. So let’s take a closer look.
Cycle tracking is a simple process of monitoring your menstrual cycle from day one, the first day of menstruation, to the last day of your menstrual month.
As your menstrual cycle is such as important diagnostic tool, it’s important to be in tune with your monthly hormonal orchestra, for reasons including:
- Menstrual blood loss tracking;
- Ovulation tracking;
- Symptom tracking;
- Optimising your hormones for health and reducing symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS).
- Family planning, whether that be for natural family planning methods of contraception, or trying to conceive;
- Monitoring your hormonal changes and symptoms through perimenopause.
- Monitoring your hormones changes and symptoms through menopause.
To keep it simple:
- Use an app such as Clue, Flo, Kindara or Natural Cycles.
- Starting with day one as the first day of your bleed, record the menstrual products you use [e.g. pads, tampons, menstrual cup and what sizes] over the duration of your period. This is in order to estimate your monthly menstrual blood loss, a very important diagnostic.
- Following your period, record your cervical discharge, especially any change to an egg white texture. The latter is your fertile window and indicative of ovulation, which is essential in order for progesterone production. The apps are rarely accurate here.
- For additional ovulation support, especially if you are unsure regarding your discharge, I recommend ovulation predictor kits (OPKs) such as Clear Blue. These are available from most chemists and supermarkets and come with detailed instructions. Please keep in mind that they are measuring the luteinising hormone (LH) surge that occurs 24-36 hours before ovulation, so it is normal to see egg white cervical mucus in the days that follow your first peak OPK result.
- Add seven days to ovulation, or eight days to your OPK peak, to become familiar with your ideal mid-luteal testing day. It’s rarely day 21, so let’s stop calling it that.
- Add any symptoms you experience over the course of the whole month including energy, mood and appetite changes, and PMS symptoms including breast tenderness and fluid retention.
- Repeat each month for at least 3 cycles.
Note: this does not apply if you are on birth control, as you are not having a true cycle. For the combined oral contraceptive pill (COCP) in particular, you are suppressing ovulation and therefore not making progesterone and need to consider the long term consequences of this. More on this to come.
Do you track your cycle? Please share with a friend who could benefit from this.