5 minute read
If there has ever been a time in your life where it felt like shit was getting too real, or why can’t the universe cut you some slack and then suddenly your period arrived and it all made sense, it may be time to consider tracking your cycle.
Even if your period is like clockwork every month, there is a lot going on every day leading up to and during menstruation that is helpful to know and understand. It’s your body and knowledge is power, wouldn’t you agree?
I’m sad to say that only recently did I find out there are four phases of the menstrual cycle. That’s right, FOUR. I had been under the impression for most of my life as a menstruator that there were essentially two and they were bleeding and not bleeding.
There would not be four distinct phases if there was not something going on in the body leading up to actual menstruation that was irrelevant to one's health and well being. All four can have an effect on your physical health, mental health, what you’re into, what you’re not into… kind of everything really.
Tracking your cycle can also help you identify key symptoms that may be a sign something bigger is happening. For instance, if you were to look back at your own data and see that during your luteal phase (the fourth and final phase before menstruation which lasts roughly two weeks) you experienced intense depression, anxiety and/or anxiety attacks and mood swings that go beyond classic PMS, it could be premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD.
If you have extremely painful, heavy periods as well as pain during sex, it’s possible you may have endometriosis.
Even if you find yourself taking things personally and feel unusually defensive a couple days before starting your period you can bet it’s because your estrogen and progesterone levels are taking a massive nose dive. Knowing why makes it easier to let go and cut yourself (and maybe some of the people around you) some slack.
Having this information with you going into a doctors appointment can also be extremely helpful and empowering. Look at the receipts, as they say.
There are plenty of apps available to log information about your cycle (they’ll even send you notifications reminding you when you’re likely to start your period), but pen and paper will honestly work just as well. The most important thing is consistently keeping track of your cycle, ideally everyday. Keep track of how you’re feeling and what you’re experiencing physically (cramping, bloating and cervical fluid, aka discharge) and mentally (overall mood and any specific feelings noticed).
The only references to cycle tracking I was aware of in the media up until about a year ago was solely for the purpose of fertility. The uterus was really only paid attention to if you wanted to put a baby in there. And then when the desired result was achieved the womb went back on the shelf. I had never seen tracking offered as a means to any other end, but the body is working within the cycle all the time. We’re on that ride whether we like it or not, it makes sense to bring a map.