Your menstrual cycle is a vital part of your physiology. It tells you/us that your body has adequate resources and the capacity to co-ordinate your hormones (and life). Your menstrual history and current menstrual cycle illuminates not only what’s happening in your body now, but also what risk factors you may have for certain conditions later on in life including osteoporosis, breast cancer, and endometrial cancer. Your menstrual past is also important to know.
There are A LOT of hormones and processes involved in the menstrual cycle. The main hormones are our sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen and progesterone play really important roles in a variety of different areas of our health: bones, nervous system, mood, metabolism, digestion, breast tissue, and cardiovascular system. It’s the fluctuation of these hormones in a cyclical fashion that seems to be important for these parts of our health.
And sometimes it’s the fluctuations in these hormones or our differential sensitivity to these hormonal changes that can cause symptoms such as hot flashes, PMS, and more. Since everything in the body is connected, hormonal changes will also impact how we feel, act, digest, sleep, and connect.
If you’re someone with a menstrual cycle, paying attention to your cycle can provide you with clues around what’s happening in your body.
Tracking your cycle and symptoms over the span of your cycle is a tool you can use to keep track of what’s happening in your body, how your hormonal fluctuations impact you, what’s going well, what needs to be addressed, and how things are changing over time.
The thing is: we forget details ALL THE TIME! That’s why tracking can be so helpful. It provides us with (historical) data. It also allows you to pinpoint changes (usually done in retrospect) and communicate more clearly with your healthcare team.
Apps can be super helpful (there are so many now!) as can a notebook, your calendar, your journal, your fitness tracker, or a spreadsheet.
A good place to start is with the 2 Ps and 2 Cs:
1. Period flow
- quantity: volume of fluid, # & size of pads/tampons etc.
- quality: colour, consistency, clots
2. Premenstrual symptoms
3. Cervical mucus
4. Cycle length
And then you can layer in other things, especially sticky points in your health like sleep, energy, mood, bloating, constipation, appetite, allergies, rashes, acne, headaches etc. (I picked the ones I see the most in my practice).
The main thing is to start. If daily is difficult, then do it weekly or biweekly — keep it simple for yourself and try not to overthink it. Set an alarm in your phone to prompt you to write a few things about your cycle.
So, what are you waiting for? Now’s the time to get started, friends!