By Claudia Cole
Due to the increasing popularity of menstrual cycle apps, there is a common misbelief that menstrual tracking is used to save dates in your calendar. While that is partly a reason, technology can play a more significant role when it comes to our overall health and wellbeing. Whether you choose to refer to your time of the month as code red, on the rags, aunt flow or mother nature, menstruation is a biological process that females go through monthly from early puberty until menopause. Due to its regular nature, it affects a large part of our lives.
With as many as 200 million menstrual tracking apps downloaded worldwide, a survey revealed that the two main reasons for using these apps are for general health and “being prepared.” As apps are implementing more features, it appears that tracking our menstrual cycles provides more benefits than we’re aware of.
Menstrual and reproductive-health practitioner, Lisa Lister, claims:
“Getting to know your cycle is crucial to your health, work, relationships and overall wellbeing. The ebb and flow of our dreams, creativity and hormones in each phase of our cycle offers us a profound opportunity to deepen our connection with our inner knowledge to live in balance with the different creative energies that occur each month.”
Though many of us may think we’re well familiar with our cycles, very few understand the remarkable process that takes place in our body. A menstrual cycle typically lasts between 24 – 29 days, however, lengths can change over the years and vary depending on the individual. It starts with the first day of your period and ends with the start of the next period. A menstrual cycle is typically divided into four phases:
Menstrual Phase – This is when the egg from the previous cycle does not become fertilized, hormone levels of estrogen and progesterone drop, and the thickened uterine lining of your uterus breaks down and sheds.
Follicular Phase – The follicular phase starts with the first day of your period (overlapping with the menstrual phase) and ends with ovulation. The pituitary gland prompts to release follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). The hormone stimulates the ovarian follicles to grow, each containing an immure egg.
Ovulation Phase– More estrogen is produced in the body, triggering the luteinizing hormone. Ovulation is when your ovary releases a mature egg where it travels towards the uterus to be fertilized.
Luteal Phase – Large amounts of progesterone are produced, stimulating the uterine to prepare for pregnancy. However, if the egg is not fertilized, the lining of the uterus to break down and will cause the menstrual phase of the next cycle to begin again.
So why track it?
Normal vs Non-normal
By tracking your menstrual cycle, it is easier to understand what is personally considered normal and what is not as every individual is different. Your cycle might be round about the same length each month or somewhat irregular. Similarly, your periods might be long or short, painful or pain-free, or heavy or light. With time, you can identify the regularity of it, helping you to identify any potential issues.
While this is incredibly useful, it’s best to keep in mind that not all irregularities aren’t are a sign of a problem. There are many possible causes, including hormonal contraception, endurance exercise, and emotional stress. Despite this, anyone who is concerned should always seek medical advice.
Fertility & Pregnancy
For women who are trying to conceive, gaining an understanding of your cycle is exceptionally valuable as it can help you determine the time you’re most likely able to get pregnant. Tracking your cycle gives you an indication of your fertility window, you can increase your chances of conceiving.
On the other hand, monitoring your cycle can also assist those who want to avoid getting pregnant and take oral contraceptive pills. In order for contraceptive pills to be most effective, they have to be taken accordingly. Many cycle tracking apps have a reminder feature, ensuring you’re taking your pill responsibly.
Hormones & Mood swings
Throughout our monthly cycle, our hormones change, causing a roller coaster of emotions. The combination of symptoms experienced in the weeks before your period is known as Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). While PMS is no fun, there are ways of effectively managing it. By tracking your symptoms and energy levels can help you provide the necessary care that you and your body need. This could involve getting plenty of rest, having a balanced diet, stress-relieving exercises or simply taking time out for yourself.
How do we track it?
When it comes to tracking your menstrual cycle, a fancy method or device is not necessarily needed. This can easily be done with the use of a calendar or monthly planner. Simply detail your daily physical symptoms, your flow, mood, and whether you’ve taken contraception or had sex.
However, if you prefer some high-tech guidance, here are the best apps available:
With over twelve million users worldwide, Clue is more than a period tracking app that uses scientific and medical information to help users make sense of their menstrual cycle. Not only does it provide impressing predictions and set calendar reminders for your period, it also tracks your symptoms, allowing you to observe your menstrual health. With continual use, you have all the mysteries behind your cycles solved!
Among some of the top free apps, Eve is period & ovulation tracker helps you understand your cycle in a whole new way. It’s a community to make friends and to discuss sex, PMS tips, and other interesting topics. What better way to learn about your body than with others you can relate to?
Flo is a smart yet straightforward app that can log over 70 symptoms and activities to get the most precise period and ovulation predictions. It provides health assistants on different topics to help users understand their body signals. If you don’t find a pink and feminine layout off-putting, give Flo a go.
Got any recommendations to add? Let us know what your favourite tracking methods or apps are.