Mastering Your Menstrual Cycle: A Beginner’s Guide to Period Tracking
Period tracking apps have taken the world by storm, with over 200 million downloads from menstruators worldwide. There's never been a better time to start tracking your cycle and learning about your unique rhythm. Whether you're trying to avoid pregnancy or planning for it, understanding your ovulation phase is key—and a tracking app can make it super simple.
We know it can be tricky to know where to start, so we’ve created a guide to take you through the basics of your cycle, the benefits of period tracking, various tracking methods, and how to make sense of your cycle..
Understanding Your Menstruation Cycle
Did you know that the average menstrual cycle spans about 28 days? This encompasses the 3-7 days that you'll typically experience your period, as well as the other phases of your cycle—the follicular, ovulatory, and luteal phases.
By tracking your entire cycle, you can tap into your body's natural rhythm and learn how to enhance your overall health and well-being.
Phases of the Menstrual Cycle
There are four phases of the menstrual cycle:
- The follicular phase: when your uterine lining thickens in preparation for an egg
- The ovulatory phase: when your ovary sends an egg to your uterus to prepare for fertilisation
- The luteal phase: when your uterus releases hormones to prepare for a potential pregnancy
- The menstruation phase: when the body sheds the thickened uterine lining after pregnancy, doesn't occur
What Is Ovulation and Why Is It Important?
Ovulation is the phase of your period when you're most fertile. So if you learn when ovulation occurs during your cycle, you can use this knowledge as a birth control method.
As we'll discuss in a moment, ovulation tracking can also support your fertility goals.
The Benefits of Period Tracking
Period tracking apps are a great way we can use technology to manage our ikura. You can start to track your period at any stage in life. It can be useful for:
Improved Fertility Awareness
If you're looking to conceive, period tracking is an essential tool to help you identify your most fertile days. Did you know that your fertility peaks for only 12-24 hours during each cycle? However, there's no need to worry if you miss this brief window - fertility levels remain high for a few days following it, as well as up to five days beforehand.
Using a period tracking app with an integrated ovulation calendar can help you to determine the optimal week for you to try to conceive. Tracking apps do have their limitations though, so it’s always good to also seek advice from a medical professional if you are having trouble falling pregnant.
Better Physical and Emotional Health
Hormones regulate more than your cycle. So tracking your cycle can help to identify trends in your physical and emotional health.
By tracking your cycle, you can identify patterns in your physical and emotional health that are closely tied to hormone fluctuations. In fact, certain hormones can impact everything from your mood and sex drive to physical health factors like blood pressure and metabolism.
With a period tracking app, you can keep an eye on your cycle and you might notice any trends or changes that may be affecting your overall health and
Effective Birth Control
Tracking your ovulatory phase can not only support a healthy and fertile cycle. It can also be a natural form of birth control.
Knowing when you're most fertile can help you understand when to abstain from sex or use alternative contraceptive methods - but be cautious. Everyone's cycle is different so only use the information in the app as a guide.
Period Tracking Methods
Period tracking has been done for centuries if not millennia. Apps may be the latest innovation in managing menstruation, but there are other methods.
The easiest way to track your cycle is with a calendar. Start by tracking how long your entire menstruation cycle lasts. Then, measure the length in days of each phase of your cycle to learn when you are most fertile.
The menstrual phase is the first phase and is characterised by bleeding, which usually lasts for several days.
The follicular phase starts on the first day of your period and lasts until ovulation, which typically occurs around day 10-14 of the cycle. During this time, the body is preparing to release an egg.
The ovulation phase is when the egg is released, and it's the most fertile time in your cycle. You’ll know this phase has begun when you experience symptoms such as breast tenderness, mild cramping, and changes in cervical mucus.
The luteal phase is the final phase and starts after ovulation and lasts until the next period begins. The body prepares for a possible pregnancy during this phase.
You can also try the basal body temperature method. You will need a basal thermometer to track your temperature every day. Basal temperature rises the day after ovulation, which can help you identify when you're most fertile.
Paid and free period tracking apps like Clue and Spot On offer ways to monitor your cycle. You can track the phases of your cycle and even record physical and emotional symptoms you experience during and during the days between periods.
The latest innovation in period tracking has come from wearable device companies. Popular wearables like Apple Watches and FitBits feature a built-in menstruation tracking calendar. They can even send notifications to predict fertile and menstrual days.
Finding Patterns in your Cycle
We’ve compiled a comprehensive list of the best period tracking apps for you. Once you've found the app that works best for you, head back here to discover our top tips.
What to Track
Beginners can get started on their cycle-tracking journeys by recording period start and end dates. You may also want to track the colour, texture, and amount of menstrual fluid and any painful symptoms you may experience.
Once you get comfortable tracking dates and symptoms of your period, you can track your entire cycle. Your cycle begins on the first day of your period and ends on the day before your next period.
Understanding Patterns in Your Menstrual Cycle
The benefit of tracking your period is that you can understand what's normal for you. That way, if your cycle veers away from what's normal, you can identify the change.
Some menstrual cycle changes are expected. For example, someone's cycle typically shortens in length with age. But unexpected changes could be a sign of pregnancy, mental health issues, or an underlying condition.
Tips for Accurate Tracking and Interpretation
Period tracking has many benefits, but it isn't foolproof. You can still get pregnant while using a period tracking app. To get the best results, make sure you are tracking your period accurately using the following tips:
- Set goals around why you want to track your cycle
- Track the symptoms that align with your goals
- Exclude outliers or abnormal periods that could skew your data
- Enable notifications about your period and ovulatory phase
- Don't stress if your real period doesn't align with an app's predictions
Last but not least, make sure you're tracking your cycle and symptoms consistently each month. The more data you have on your period, the more accurate your interpretations will be.
AWWA: The Best Period Products
Period tracking empowers menstruators everywhere to take control of their menstruation cycle. Whether you use an app or one of the more traditional methods, you can learn more about your health and fertility.
We want to support you reconnect to your cycle with the comfiest, most stylish period underwear. Learn more about AWWA today and get your very own pair.