We’ve been talking a lot about cycle tracking at LOLA HQ this month, and how keeping a log of your entire menstrual cycle can provide you with a new perspective on your body and health.
Inspired to learn more, one of our team members, Liz, started tracking her cycle a little over four weeks ago. Here’s what she reported back to us:
“It’s still early, and the results so far have been mix of surprising, empowering and confusing. One positive I can report, however, is that I already feel like I understand my body more. After a single month of tracking, I feel more in tune with my physical and mental state during different times of the month. I’m excited to see what patterns emerge over the next few months.”
And she’s not the only one. We asked the LOLA community to weigh in on cycle tracking: whether they’ve heard of it or tried it, and what they’ve learned in the process.
Over 500 respondents said they’ve tracked their full menstrual cycle, and the lessons it’s taught them are diverse and eye-opening. Some clear trends also emerged, so we decided to share them here.
The top lessons our community learned by tracking their menstrual cycle
1. Tracking may help you understand PMS. Cycle tracking can help you predict far more than when when your next period will start. The number one trend among survey respondents was that tracking helped them understand their PMS: when it would begin before their period, how long it would last, and which specific symptoms they could expect. Our community said knowing what to expect helped them plan for PMS, which made getting through any negative symptoms easier.
“I’m able to detect when I am PMSing and can be aware of when my hormonal migraines will occur.” — Alicia, 28
“I finally have a better grasp on PMS and can plan for it (I’m sure my partner appreciates the heads up as well).” — Hanna, 34
“I learned what PMS is. I learned that I get PMS symptoms. I learned it only lasts 4 days and comes every 5 weeks like clockwork.” — Chloe, 14
2. Stress and diet can definitely have an impact on your period. It’s common knowledge that a healthy diet and solid stress management practices are good for your overall health. But what about your reproductive health? Respondents were able to see exactly how these factors affected their cycle; some were even able to pinpoint certain types of foods that throw their period out of whack.
“My period is very easily affected by my stress level and my diet. Keeping a healthier diet and improving my mental health helps keep my cycle regular.” — Morgan, 19
“So many things can affect my cycle, but treating my body well often keeps it in balance: more sleep, better nutrition, exercise, and most importantly managing my stress.” — Haley, 22
“Fried foods give me horrible cramps on my cycle. My cycle is 3-4 days if I am eating clean.” — Victoria, 26
3. Tracking can help you get a handle on your phases. Your cycle is divided into four phases—follicular, ovulation, luteal and menstruation. Tracking provides a great refresher on these phases, and what’s happening during each, for those of us who haven’t thought about this topic since 6th grade sex-ed.
“I have learned how my mood shifts based on which part of my cycle I am in. It’s always like ‘Why do I feel so angry today? Oh yeah, because I’m in my luteal phase.’” — Kerriann, 29
“I am more productive, pensive, motivated, and emotional at different points through my cycle. Knowing this helps me to play to those strengths instead of against.” — Sabra, 32
“I always noticed that one part of the month I was really happy for no reason. From cycle tracking I have learned that time is my ovulation.” — Megan
4. You may find out your cycle isn’t what you thought it was. Most of us know roughly when our period starts, but tracking allows you to get specific down to the day. Knowing when your next period is due is obviously useful for knowing when to keep tampons or pads handy. But it could also call attention to a cycle that’s shorter or longer than average, in which case you should talk to your doctor.
Additionally, it’s normal for cycles to vary month to month, and evolve as you age. Cycle tracking can give you a bird’s eye view of these changes, and help you understand what’s normal, and what’s not, for you.
“My cycle routinely follows the full moon calendar. Hmmm who knew? I didn’t until I started tracking it.” — Maggie, 45
“I’m still learning, but I don’t have a typical 28 day cycle like I thought.” — Laura, 29
“It made me realize my period is too long. I was able to go to my doctor for a new birth control to make my period shorter and more bearable. It was very helpful.” — Micayla, 19
5. It’s a great way to learn more about your body. Cycle tracking can give you a better understanding of your reproductive health. It can also help you understand how your hormones affect your day-to-day life—physically, mentally and emotionally. Your cycle can even reveal information about your health that you wouldn’t otherwise be aware of, and help you manage existing conditions.
“I have learned so much about my body. I can tell just by my mood what is happening inside of my body. I feel like it all makes so much sense now.” — April, 32
“My cycle felt unpredictable due to PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) but tracking consistently helped me pin down a pattern. It’s a wacky cycle but is IS regular in some way!” — Morgan, 24
“I’ve learned SO much! I think it is such a shame we don’t teach young women about this sooner. I feel like I lost time with my REAL body spending all those years on the pill — I never knew there was another choice.” — Laura, 30
Ready to start tracking your own cycle? Or perhaps you already track, but want to learn more about what’s happening in your body throughout the month? Read our breakdown of the four phases of the menstrual cycle, and watch the video below for tips on managing each stage.