How Do I Track My Menstrual Cycle?

There are so many women who do not know how their menstrual cycle works.

There are benefits in knowing exactly when to expect your next period, when you ovulate (release an egg), if your moods are affected by your cycle, when to expect increased appetite or fatigue etc.

Tracking your menstrual cycle is also a great idea if you are trying to fall pregnant. You will discover when your likely fertile days are so that you can optimise your chances for conception.

Here are a few easy steps to get you started:

1. Start a diary / calendar. The first day you start bleeding is DAY 1 of your cycle.
2. Mark your bleeding days with a red *.
3. If your bleeding is light mark it with a single *. If it is heavy mark it with ***. Do this on all your bleeding days.
4. The last day of your cycle will be on the day before your next DAY 1. Typical cycles last between 28-32 days. Your cycle may be longer or shorter. This is why it is important to find out your individual physiological makeup.
5. Ovulation occurs in the middle of your cycle. Typically 12-16 days before DAY 1. It will not always be on the same day every month, but hopefully you will be able to pick up a pattern.
6. Look out for a white mucous discharge in the middle of the month. Put this down on your calendar as a teardrop. Ovulation should occur in and around this stage.
7. Some women experience a bit of pain when they ovulate. Put this down on your calendar as a lightening flash. Again, this could be a sign of ovulation.
8. Another useful tip is to track your moods on each day of your cycle. Some women get extremely tired and hungry before their bleed. Others experience increased libido around ovulation. Be creative and mark these emotions with eg smiley face, sad face, piece of cake etc.
9. Also put a large tick on the days you have a love connection. If you fall pregnant this will help you pin point the date of conception.
10. Once you have been doing this for a couple of months you will know your body's rhythm. Remember the best time to make a love connection in order to fall pregnant is 2 days before your expected ovulation date and on your expected ovulation date.

If you are more serious about this and willing to spend a bit of money you can also:

• Buy yourself a special basal body temperature (BBT) thermometer to help you work out your ovulation date. Your basal body temperature is slightly cooler in the first half of your cycle and increases after ovulation.
• Find an ultrasound clinic to perform follicular tracking ultrasound scans on you. These can tell if your follicles are maturing and the exact date they rupture (release an egg).
• Get an ovulation predictor kit. They work by detecting the level of luteinizing hormone (LH) in your urine. In general, the level of LH rises just prior to ovulation.