Few women wouldn’t know the answer to this question. “Do you remember the first time you got your period?”
Yet, period talk is not something you profess openly in public. Your annual visit to the gynecologist is the highlight of your menstrual talk.
Maybe you track your bleed week just so you can stock up on feminine products and ice cream, or perhaps you double up on your facial products to prevent the hormonal acne from making an appearance. But you rarely dive into much of anything else because … well, why should you?
Keeping a close eye on your cycle beyond your period can help you understand your body better and spot any health issues right away so you can take action sooner rather than later.
The Four Phases of the Menstrual Cycle
You will have, on average, 450 cycles in your lifetime! Your menstrual cycle is counted from the first day of your period to the first day of your next period.
Menstrual Phase (Day 1 - 5)
The first day of your bleed is considered day 1 of your cycle. It is the easiest to recognize and track because you have a period between 2 and 7 days as your uterine lining sheds.
You get your period because the released egg was not fertilized and progesterone levels plummet (along with all other hormones too).
Follicular Phase (Day 6 - 11)
The phase right after menstruation is called the follicular phase because the tiny follicles in your ovaries begin to grow once again thanks to the follicle stimulating hormone, or FSH. Why are these tiny follicles so important? They hold your eggs.
Ovulatory Phase (12-18)
The third phase is very special. Ovulation is the reason your body has been working around the clock for the last couple of weeks. The star hormone is LH as it gives the green light for one tiny egg to be released from the follicle into the fallopian tube. The egg’s life span is only about 12-24 hours if it does not get fertilized by a sperm cell.
The Luteal Phase (19-28)
The luteal phase is the closing of a chapter. The now-empty follicle produces progesterone to prepare the uterus for implantation of the fertilized embryo. However, if fertilization does not happen, your hormones begin to drop so the cycle can begin all over again.
Fun Fact: Researchers think that the significant drop in estrogen and progesterone during the luteal phase is the cause of PMS.
How to Track Your Cycle
There are many ways you can track your cycle that extend beyond your period week. After all, it is only one-fourth of your cycle.
Since every woman is unique, so is her period. Some women have long periods (8 days) and others are lucky to have short ones (2 days). Likewise, some women experience a heavier flow and others have extremely light bleeds.
The key is to track the regularity of your period. Does it come at a similar time each month or do you regularly skip months? A regular period is typically an indication that you are in good reproductive health.
While it’s not the easiest facet to track, your mucus can tell you a great deal about your cycle.
In fact, cervical mucus can be the telltale sign of ovulation. Right before you ovulate, estrogen is extremely high and receptors in the cervix bind to the estrogen and create a mucus similar to egg white consistency.
Basal Body Temperature
Tracking your basal body temperature is a great way to look into your progesterone levels. After ovulation, progesterone levels increase and boost your basal body temperature by half a degree.
The key to checking your temperature is doing it at the same time each day, preferably right after you wake up. Also, keep in mind that irregular sleep, stress, and alcohol can affect your temperature readings so it’s not the most accurate method to use.
One of the easiest and most accurate ways to measure your fertility (and reproductive health) is by checking your hormones. And don’t worry, you don’t have to go to the doctor to do this! Your reproductive hormones can be measured in your urine.
If you are interested in fertility, you want to take a look at luteinizing hormone (LH) and progesterone. You can see an LH surge right before you ovulate and a progesterone surge after you ovulate signaling an egg has been released.
Your Cycle Can Paint a Clear Picture About Your Reproductive Health
Tracking your cycle is a great way to plan for your upcoming period or conception, however, they’re not the only reasons to do so.
Here are some other lesser-known reasons you should track your cycle.
- It can help you understand your unique patterns so you don’t have to rely on standardized data.
- You can gain control over your fertility because you will know when you ovulate.
- As you begin to understand the individual hormone fluctuations, you can manage your mood (and calendar) more effectively.
Tracking your periods is a great place to start. However, if you’ve mastered it already, it’s a great idea to monitor other elements such as cervical mucus, basal body temperature, and hormone levels.
An easy way to get started is by using Oova’s fertility translator. Not only is it easy to use, but it also gives you a clear picture of your hormones right at your fingertips. The Oova app translates the data in a language that’s native to you.
Understanding your menstrual cycle on a hormonal level empowers you to use that knowledge to your advantage.
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