One of the most empowering things a woman can do is understand her own menstrual cycle. Understanding how fertility works provides women with the tools needed to both prevent and plan pregnancy! Knowing how to track your menstrual cycle can provide helpful medical insights, and provide peace of mind when it comes to pregnancy and fertility. Ultimately, tracking your menstrual cycle just means keeping detailed records of when you’re menstruating and other information related to your cycle. The information you decide to record is up to you, but the more information you keep track of, the more accurate your recordings will be. Below are some of the things you should be tracking if you want to understand your menstrual cycle stages:
Track how many days your period lasts
This is the most basic level of knowing how to track your menstrual cycle. Your menstrual cycle is just that – a cycle that repeats itself every set number of days. Your period (the time in which you are actively bleeding) is just part of your menstrual cycle, but it helps to keep track of when your period starts and how long it lasts. A lot of doctors use your last menstrual period (LMP) to make initial determinations regarding how far along in pregnancy you may be, or when you might next ovulate (release an egg that is ready to be fertilized). It is also very common for doctors to ask when your last period started as part of a general health check-up, so knowing this information is helpful.
Pay attention to cervical mucus
Cervical mucus is fluid that is produced by and released from the cervix (the opening to the uterus, found at the back of the vaginal canal). This mucus changes in volume, color, and consistency throughout your menstrual cycle, providing insight into when you are most fertile. Cervical mucus that is clear and slippery often indicates ovulation is occurring (meaning that there’s a possibility you would become pregnant if you engaged in sexual activity). Cervical mucus that is thick and white usually indiciates that you are not particularly fertile at that time.
Checking your cervical mucus daily and keeping detailed notes of it can help you understand where you are at in your menstrual cycle, and help you become more aware of what symptoms your body has during particular phases of the cycle. Every woman’s cycle is going to look a little bit different, but for a standard 28-day cycle, cervical mucus patterns can look something like this:
Days 1-4 (after your period ends): Dry or tacky. It can be white or yellow-tinged.
Days 4-6: Sticky. Slightly damp and white.
Days 7-9: Creamy, yogurt-like consistency. Wet and cloudy.
Days 10-14: Stretchy and resembles raw egg whites. Slippery and very wet. Indicates fertility!
Days 14-28: Dry or tacky until period starts again.
Check your basal body temperature (BBT)
Your basal body temperature (BBT) is the lowest temperature your body reaches during a time of rest. The average basal body temperature fluctuates throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle, providing indicators for phases of fertility. Typically, your basal body temperature will be slightly elevated during ovulation, indicating that you are at peak fertility – and that you would likely conceive if you were to be sexually active at that time. There are special thermometers designed to take basal body temperature, or you can use a regular digital thermometer. It’s important that you take your temperature before getting out of bed in the morning; it’s also best if you take your temperature at the same time every day for the most accurate reading. You’ll want to write these temperatures down, either on an app on your phone or in a notebook.
After a few months of tracking, you’ll be able to tell when you are ovulating based on subtle changes in your body temperature – and doing some basic math based on your cycle’s length will also be able to predict which days you can anticipate your BBT being elevated.
Ultimately, what you decide to keep track of is entirely up to you. You could just use one of these methods to keep track of your menstrual cycle, but many women decide to track all of the information above for more accuracy. The more symptoms and details you keep track of, though, the more information you have to work with – which in turn, is going to provide more accuracy regarding days that you are fertile and days that you are not very likely to conceive. You may also find it beneficial to take ovulation tests (which can be purchased at most major pharmacies or convenience stores) during suspected ovulation days for the first couple of months, just to make sure that you are ovulating when you think you are.
Tracking Your Menstrual Cycle Stages
Now that you’ve learned how to track your menstrual cycle stages, you’ll be able to follow the steps to keep yourself informed and keep your mind at ease. If you have additional questions or need guidance on finding the proper resources for you, reach out to us! The At Home Abortion Facts team is here to help you.