How to track your menstrual cycle: how do you know when you’re ovulating, how to read your biomarkers and more…
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I’m not a doctor and every body is different so please do continue your reading and self-exploration if you’re inspired by this post. And as always, if you’re concerned about anything to do with your health, don’t hesitate to contact your GP.
You’ve probably heard people talking about tracking their cycle, using period apps, checking their ‘bio markers’ and even ‘temping’, which can all be quite overwhelming if you’ve never done it before and don’t know where to start. What should you be looking for, how do you know when you’re ovulating and who needs to do it?
What is cycle tracking and why is it useful?
Cycle tracking is a way of monitoring your menstrual cycle throughout the month in order to look for patterns and potential problems. Our cycles are split into four distinct phases which cycle through on a loop over the space of a month (or however long your personal cycle is) and should include ovulation and a period. By tracking what happens to our bodies in each cycle we’re able to learn so much about our bodies, spot the signs of any potential problems, aid conception, prevent conception and learn to work with our hormones instead of against them. Cycle tracking can be done in numerous ways and is completely free and easy to do!
Who should be tracking their cycle?
If you have a uterus, cycle tracking is for you. It’s a common misconception that cycle tracking is only useful for those trying to conceive or those using the natural contraception method. Cycle tracking is for everyone and it can make your life SO much easier.
How to track your cycle?
I’m going to talk you through some of the main ways to track your cycle. From how to record your data, what to look out for and how to read your body’s natural bio markers around ovulation and menstruation.
It’s helpful to note that while it’s possible to track your cycle in some ways while on hormonal contraception, birth control can block our natural bio markers such as cervical mucus and temperature changes. This means you may not be able to use all of these tracking methods whilst still on hormonal contraception so do keep that in mind when starting your tracking journey.
Tracking Your Cycle
Period Tracking Apps & Journals
The easiest way to begin tracking your cycle is by using a period tracking app. If you’re not comfortable with an app then you can start a manual journal with either a template – like these – or just by using a notepad! You can also track things using the notes app on your phone, however you feel comfortable, just write that info down.
Period apps and journals are a fantastic way to start tracking your cycle because the main areas are covered. Some apps will even create graphs and health reports with the data you input that you can take along to your GP if you think something isn’t quite right.
Some great things to make a note of are:
- The length of your cycle (how many days from the start of one period to the next)
- How long your period lasts
- How heavy your period is on each day
- Your general mood
- Any physical symptoms you experience such as sore breasts, any cervical mucus (discharge), cramping, backache etc
- Basal body temperature
BBT Tracking – Basal Body Temperature
Speaking of BBT, this is a fantastic and super easy way to keep track of your cycle and look for patterns!
I have a whole article and video dedicated to BBT if you’d like to know a little more but in short, during a normal menstrual cycle your body temperature will be lower in the first half and higher in the second. How do you know when you’re ovulating? There tends to be a dip and then a sharp rise over the space of a few days which can indicate ovulation. This is super helpful to know because ovulation is a key indicator that your cycle is working the way it should be.
Your luteal phase (the days between ovulation and the start of your period) tends to stay roughly the same each month however ovulation can sometimes vary. If you know when you’ve ovulated you can more accurately predict when your period will arrive because you’ll know how long your luteal phase usually lasts. This means if you ovulate later than usual one month, there’s less chance of panicking when your period is ‘late’ because you’ll know things have simply shifted back a few days and you’re still right on track.
Take a look at my post on BBT charting here to find out more how you can implement this super simple tracking method for less than £10!
Cervical Mucus / Discharge
Discharge isn’t anything to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. Our discharge (that white stain in your knickers) is INCREDIBLE stuff that can not only help us get pregnant and keep infections at bay, but it can also tell you where you’re at in your cycle, if ovulation is happening, if your period is on the way or if there are any health problems you may need to address.
Your cervical mucus will either be dry, watery, sticky, lotion-like or clear and stretchy like raw egg whites. The consistancy will indicate which stage of your cycle you’re in. How do you know when you’re ovulating? When you spot egg whites that means you’re fertile and ovulation is on the way. When things dry up a little it may mean that your period is about to arrive. You can check your cervical mucus by wiping with toilet roll before going for a wee and taking a closer look at the tissue, or by gently inserting two clean fingers into the vaginal canal and sweeping across and around the cervix.
(I’ll be writing a whole article and filming a video on this one too so stay tuned for that!)
Ah yes, the cervix! The position of your cervix can also be another helpful way to track your cycle – if not a little more intense! Our cervix changes position and firmness throughout the month. On average it tends to sit higher and feel softer (like your bottom lip when it’s relaxed) when you’re ovulating, and it sits lower and feels harder (like the tip of your nose) around menstruation.
You can check this by inserting a clean finger into your vagina around the same time each day throughout the month and recording how it feels or how far you need to reach in order to touch it. Doing this in the shower is an easy way to do things!
WATCH: How to Track Your Cycle For Beginners
What to use the information for?
Once you’ve tracked your cycle for a few months you’ll start to see patterns emerge. This information can then be compared against what’s considered to be a normal cycle in order to check for any potential issues or hormone imbalances. Once you know your cycle you’ll also be able to work with your hormones not against them which I’ve got a post on here!
Knowing where you’re at in your cycle is so empowering and can really help you plan and also panic less if your period ends up being a little later than usual. How do you know when you’re ovulating? It’s right there in your app thanks to those bio markers and your new tracking skills! Is your period actually late or did you simply ovulate later? Let’s do the maths with our new luteal phase knowledge! Why are you feeling extra emotional or craving salty snacks? Looks like your period is due next week and you’ve logged the same symptoms around this time for the last two months!
Give it a go and see how it feels. You don’t have to track everything, start with whatever you feel comfortable with and go from there. Just remember, when it comes to our bodies knowledge is power!
ALSO: THIS is a fantastic read for learning stuff about your cycle they really should have told us in school!
Want to know more? Take a look at my Cycle Chats playlist on Youtube!
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The questions ‘How to track your cycle’ and ‘how do you know when you’re ovulating’ tend to go hand in hand, but if you’d like a more detailed post on ovulation tracking just let me know in the comments or over on Instagram and I’m more than happy to help!