It was evident there was a problem as soon as she walked into the room. My daughter had been looking forward to a night out, but now her face was like a small thundercloud. “Period started,” she snapped, in response to my raised eyebrow.
For me, this example is just one reason why we females should track our monthly cycle. ‘Shark Week’ – as it’s known in our house – is bad enough, without it arriving unexpectedly and spoiling your plans.
If we can get our girls into the tracking habit while they’re young, it will help them in the years to come. Here’s why it’s important we teach our daughters to track their menstrual cycle.
1It gives you control
Once you start tracking your cycle, you can predict – to within a day or two – when your period is likely to arrive. It no longer catches you off-guard. You can make sure you’ve stocked up on sanitary pads or tampons.
You can also plan appointments or social commitments around it. When I’m racked with cramps, fighting fatigue and feeling so bloated I could burst, the last thing I want to do is get my glad-rags on.
2It’s a guide to your health
After a while, you’ll start to learn what’s normal for you. You’ll know the average length of your cycle, how many days your period lasts, and how heavy it is. You’ll spot any changes in colour and consistency that might indicate an underlying problem.
Changing hormones can also affect other health problems. Keeping track of where you are in your cycle means you can anticipate and prepare as necessary. For example, some women with depression and mental health issues have reported feeling much worse and need to alter their medication each month. Others are more prone to crippling panic attacks.
3It helps you understand yourself
Every so often, I have a day when I feel completely wretched. I burst into tears at the slightest thing. I’m ridiculously touchy and sensitive. The next day, I feel vicious. I snarl and snap at everyone. People watch me warily if I happen to have a sharp knife in my hand. I guarantee, these episodes occur 7-8 days before my period is due.
Tracking your cycle helps you understand your moods. You’ll also pick up on other regular symptoms, such as food cravings. Anyone else get the urge to eat their own bodyweight in carbs once a month, or is that just me? Knowing what’s going on with your mind and body helps you manage how you feel.
4You’ll know when you’re fertile (and when you’re not)
This can be as important for those who don’t want a baby as those who do. You’ll be able to work out when you’re ovulating, and which are your most fertile days. Or, if you’re period is late and you’re not sure your contraception is 100% effective, you can work out how likely it is that you’re pregnant.
5It gives you an overview
A menstrual cycle isn’t an on-off thing. It’s about more than knowing which days you should probably avoid wearing white trousers.
A woman’s cycle is constant. It explains why there are some days when you want cuddles but on others you want to punch anyone who dares touch you. Why today you choose to wear a slinky dress, and then tomorrow you prefer leggings and a baggy XXXL sweater.
How to track your cycle
The easiest way is to use an app. My personal choice is Period Tracker – there’s both a free and paid-for version. You can record your physical symptoms and moods; some are pre-set or you can add your own. There are fertility and lifestyle options, and the paid-for version includes a chat forum.
Flo is also popular. As well as daily tips on how to deal with particular symptoms – such as stomach cramps – there’s a pregnancy mode, which tracks your health and offers insightful articles.
Another favourite is Clue, rated the top period tracking app by Obstetrics & Gynecology journal in the US. It has a sleek design – great if your girl isn’t into pink frills and flowers – and is intuitive; the more you use it, the smarter it gets.
All apps are simple to use and available free on both IOS and Android devices.