Tracking Your Period and Why it's Important
Keeping track of your period is important for a number of reasons, primarily health-related. Additionally, thanks to technology, it's easier than ever to keep track of not just your menstrual cycle, but your moods, physical symptoms and even food cravings at specific times of the month.
Period Tracking and Pregnancy
For many women, a missed period is the first indication of pregnancy. That fact alone is reason enough for sexually active women to keep track of their monthly cycles. Most forms of birth control don't quite hit the 100% effectiveness mark, and an unplanned pregnancy is something you want to be aware of as soon as possible. In addition to this, the rhythm method of birth control — in which a woman avoids sex during her most fertile days to prevent pregnancy — relies on accurate period tracking.
On the other end of the spectrum, women trying to conceive can use period tracking to learn when they are most fertile. This may boost the chances of conception significantly.
Tracking Your Period for Health Reasons
The more intimately you know your own body and its cycles, the more easily you can recognize when something is amiss. Not only that, but a change in menstrual cycle is often the first obvious symptom for a number of women's health issues, some of which have no obvious connection to the reproductive organs.
When a regular menstrual cycle becomes irregular, it may indicate a hormone and/or thyroid issue, liver function problems, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes or a host of other health conditions. Women also commonly miss periods or experience menstrual changes when adopting a new exercise routine, gaining or losing a significant amount of weight, or simply going through a time of extreme stress.
One late, early or missed period isn't necessarily cause for alarm, but if the menstrual irregularity is coupled with other symptoms , you should schedule and appointment with your OB/GYN.
What to Track
At the very bare minimum, you should keep track of the first day of your period each month. This information is enough to help you notice most irregularities. However, you can get pretty sophisticated with your period tracking. Keeping up with all of the details helps you monitor your health more closely, and it can also help you prepare yourself for other symptoms related to menstruation.
Period heaviness by day — Does your period start with a couple of days of heavy flow and then taper off to a day or two of spotting? If so, you probably require different strengths of pads or tampons through the course of your cycle. Anticipating these needs can make your life much easier.
Changes in mood during the menstrual cycle — If you experience PMS or PMDD, your moods may seem subject to random fluctuations. Start tracking your moods in the days leading up to and during your period, though, and you just might find that you wake up on the wrong side of bed exactly two days before starting your cycle each month.
Forewarned is forearmed, so the more you know about what you can expect from your moods, the better you can cope with them as they come.
Energy level, appetite and other changes — A lot of women don't even realize how many aspects of their lives are dictated by the menstrual cycle, at least during parts of the month. When you track how you feel as your cycle approaches, you can learn some pretty interesting things about your habits. You may find that you tend to eat everything in sight on the first day of your period, for example, and you can use that knowledge to make sure you have healthy snacks on hand to indulge those urges.
It might be that tracking your energy level shows you that you are always exhausted on day three of your period, or that you get a headache before your period starts each month. When you track every aspect of your cycle, you won't be blindsided by your body's reactions to menstruation.
How to Track It
You don't necessarily need a fancy method for tracking your period and the accompanying symptoms. Writing it down on a calendar serves the purpose just fine. However, if you want to get a little more high-tech with it, there are computer programs, online trackers and smart phone apps that give you the ability to keep up with every detail you could want.
Know Your Cycle and Know Your Body
Your OB/GYN is there to help you when your body gives you warning signs, but it's up to you to recognize when those signs occur. That's why it's imperative that you be proactive about your health with proper period tracking.
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Period Tracking: What to Track
The more you know about how you feel during various points in your period, the better you can prepare for your symptoms. Consider tracking the following during your period:
- The dates of your period
- Period heaviness by day
- Your moods throughout your period
- Energy level
- Appetite and eating habits
- Frequency and severity of cramps
- Headaches, muscle aches and other minor pain