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What is the Best Way to Track my Menstrual Cycle?

Article Details
  • Written By: Aniza Pourtauborde
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 23 May 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Menstruation is the shedding of the uterus lining, causing a loss of tissue and blood over the course of three to five days. It occurs once every four weeks. This recurrence is called the menstrual cycle. The cycle is different for every woman and ranges from 21 to 40 days, with an average of 28 days.

Knowing when your menstrual cycle begins and ends helps to identify irregularities that could be signs of medical problems. Furthermore, being aware of where you are in the cycle assists in avoiding or planning pregnancy. By recognizing physical and emotional changes, you can better anticipate the arrival of your menstruation or the start of your fertile phase.

There are four methods of tracking your menstrual cycle:

1. Basal Temperature

This is your body temperature when you wake up in the morning. Tracking your temperature lets you know when you have ovulated. With a basal thermometer, take your temperature vaginally, orally or rectally, using the same method at the same time every morning.

Pre-ovulation, your temperature changes by about 0.25°F (0.1°C) everyday. From post-ovulation until your next period, your temperature rises by about 0.5°F (0.2°C) daily. Your most fertile period is a few days before you reach peak temperature. This is the most challenging method of tracking your menstrual cycle, as temperature fluctuates at the slightest variation in activity, such as sleeping late or taking medication.

2. Cervical Mucus

Cervical mucus is a liquid secretion produced by the cervix. The amount and texture of the mucus change throughout your menstrual cycle. Tracking cervical mucus is easy and fast. Moreover, it is an accurate indication of where you are in your menstrual cycle. Use your fingers or tissue paper to feel the mucus at any time during the day.

At the beginning of the cycle, there is little mucus, resulting in vaginal dryness. Towards ovulation, the mucus becomes sticky and white or milky and cloudy, a sign that you are moving into your fertile period. You are most fertile when your mucus is slippery, clear and stretchy, similar to raw egg whites. Post-ovulation, the mucus is thick and cloudy, eventually turning into a stickier and more acidic form towards the end of the cycle.

3. Changes in the Cervix

Although this is a good way to track your menstrual cycle, it may take a few cycles before you know your cervix well. Insert one or two fingers deep into your vagina until you feel resistance. This is your cervix. You will also feel a dimple or indent, which represents the os, the opening into your uterus.

Your cervix will feel firm and low with a closed os at the start of your menstrual cycle. It becomes softer and higher with a more opened os as you approach ovulation. This will be your fertile window. Post-ovulation, the cervix returns to its first position. For increased accuracy, check your cervix at the same time everyday.

4. Other Changes

You can track your menstrual cycle through physical and emotional changes. However, these are not reliable indications of fertility and ovulation. Use this method in conjunction with other methods for a well-defined interpretation of your cycle. Physically, you may have premenstrual cramps, swollen breasts, lower back pain and abdominal pain during menstruation itself. Emotionally, you may experience sudden mood swings, both good and bad.

The best way to effectively track your menstrual cycle is to chart all four methods on a single calendar. Charting your menstrual cycle is tedious. Therefore, it requires patience and diligence.

Start by choosing a technique that you are most comfortable with. You may use conventional techniques, such as a marker pen and cardboard paper, or buy a normal calendar with large box spaces. Otherwise, use computer technology and the Internet by developing a spreadsheet or downloading menstrual cycle tracking software onto your computer or palmtop.

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