Hormone swings, painful cramps, expensive feminine products, anxiety over leaks, social stigmas, and so on — periods can be a real burden. That’s how I felt about my period for nearly two decades — a monthly burden. Odds are, as women, we’ve all felt this way about our periods at some point. And men, you’ve likely seen women experience it.
It doesn’t have to be that way — you can take the burden out of your period. Our periods can give us big clues about our hardworking female bodies, but we first need to look for them. I discovered a simple period tracking tool at the peak of my period stress that helps me see those clues my body is giving, and ease the burden of my period. And as a bonus, I’ve gotten to know my body more intimately because of it.
How I Discovered The Period Tracking
As a female child with two brothers, “periods” weren’t exactly a topic of discussion growing up. I kept quiet about my cycle and dealt with it as best as I could. At the age of 19 during my first year of university, I had a moderate acne flare-up (likely from stress and poor eating habits, but at the time I wasn’t tuned in enough to see that). I was informed that birth control pills (BCPs) can be used as acne treatment and upon my doctor’s advice, I started taking BCPs to clear up my skin.
These pills offered the benefits of flawless skin, and promised a minimal chance of pregnancy as well as scheduled periods. I said goodbye to my mild acne, and continued taking various prescriptions of BCPs for over 10 years.
While I was on the pill, I became more and more disconnected with the natural functioning of my body. After over a decade of synthetic “periods,” I decided to give my body a chance to function naturally and stopped taking BCPs. Off the pill, my periods ranged from absent to unpredictable for six months as my body was adjusting to creating hormones again. I was stressed and confused by this.
As the weeks went by without a period, I researched how other women have transitioned off BCPs and consulted with my doctor. I learned that tracking my period was essential to give me a clearer picture of my period health. Tracking my period would tell me how long my cycles were and if there was any improvement in cycle length.
I quickly searched for period tracking apps on my smartphone and downloaded one right away called Clue. I’ve been tracking my period cycles on the Clue app for nearly four years now! You’ll be impressed with the information this simple tool can give you to more intimately know your body and ease the burden of your period.
Information You Will Gain From Tracking Your Period
Know your cycle length:
Menstrual cycles can vary in length, for a multitude of reasons. Our bodies are all different and we have our own rhythms. Cycle length is the number of days from the start of one period to the start of the next period. For each of us, our cycle length should be about the same each month, give or take a few days to a week. By tracking your periods each month, you’ll be able to see how long each cycle is, and whether or not you’re staying on track.
If your cycle length changes, you may be able to see why — medications, stress, lack of sleep, travel, etc. can all have an effect on our cycle. You may be able to see if there’s an underlying medical condition causing a disruption in your cycle. If you’ve missed the start of your next cycle, you may also be able to tell if you’re pregnant.
Know when you are most fertile:
Whether you’re trying to get pregnant or avoiding pregnancy, knowing when you are most fertile is key. By tracking your periods, you’ll be able to better estimate when you are ovulating (and fertile), and many apps will do it for you. Period tracking apps can allow you to track cervical fluid, which is another indicator in ovulation.
Although not a perfect science, over time these apps can become very accurate in estimating when you’re ovulating and what days you’re most fertile. This can show you when it’s time to get busy with your partner, or when it’s time to take extra precaution.
Whether its a beach holiday, a special night with your partner, or an important social gathering, your period sneaking up on you has the potential to wreak havoc on a good time. Accidents happen, but they don’t have to. Tracking your periods can help you estimate when your cycle will start so you can be prepared. You can even set a reminder to notify you when your next cycle is about to begin.
Tracking when you’re experiencing cramps, bloating headaches, cravings, mood swings, and other PMS symptoms can help you prepare for these and try to minimise them over time. You can see at what day of your cycle you’re experiencing symptoms, and how often you have them.
For example — are you craving chocolate right before your period? You’re not alone. According to the Clue app, their users reported 15,143,780 chocolate craving days in 2017! Knowing where you’re at in your cycle while experiencing symptoms can help make sense of them. From this, you can find methods to ease and alleviate PMS symptoms through nutrition, exercise, sleep, etc.
How You Can Start Period Tracking
The Clue App is one of many apps for period tracking. A simple search in your app store for “period tracker” will include MyFLO, Flo, PinkPad, and more. These apps can offer tips such as: reminders of when your next cycle is starting, what foods and exercise will support your cycle, an analysis of cycle length, and tracking options for PMS symptoms, sexual intercourse, moods and cravings, cervical fluid, and the list goes on.
Don’t have a access to apps? A plain old calendar can do the trick (although, you’ll be accountable for the data analysis so be sure to consult with an expert).
With period tracking information at our fingertips, we have valuable insight into our period health, which in turn can create a clearer picture of how well our bodies are functioning. You can also feel more prepared and aware of physical and emotional ebbs and flows throughout the month.
Remember — periods don’t have to be a burden. Instead, they can be a health guide to our hardworking, incredible female bodies.