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Integrative Family Health Clinic in Bolton and the Greater Caledon Area
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5 Reasons You Should Be Tracking Your Menstrual Cycle

Are you a 3-weeker or a 4-weeker? Tracking your menstrual cycle can yield a lot of benefits, not just for your laundry and vacation schedules, but also for your hormone health, fertility, and overall health. Read on to find out 5 reasons why you should be tracking your menstrual cycle, and how to do it. 

A “Normal” Cycle

Although the average length of a menstrual cycle is 28 days, a menstrual cycle can be from 23 to 35 days and still be considered normal. The regularity of your cycle is more important than the length of your cycle because it indicates that your hormones are cycling properly. There are a few hormones that influence the regularity of your cycle:

Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)

This hormone, released by a gland in the brain, stimulates the development of follicles in the ovary, which become eggs that can become fertilized every cycle.

Luteinizing hormone (LH)

Like FSH, LH is made in the brain and has roles in ovulation and regulating cycle length. 

Estrogen

A hormone that is made throughout the body and has a variety of actions. In people who menstruate, it’s dominant during the first half of their cycle.

Progesterone

A hormone made throughout the body and is dominant during the second half of the menstrual cycle.

Your cycle length may vary because of individual factors, but your cycle regularity can be impacted by factors like stress and other conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, thyroid conditions, or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). 

Why You Should Be Tracking Your Cycle

1. Helps to monitor your fertility

One of the primary reasons to track your cycle is to better understand your fertile window for family planning. Tracking the start and end to your cycle, along with cycle milestones like cervical mucous, can help you determine when—and when not to—time intercourse for your family planning goals.

2. Helps to monitor changes in your hormones 

Cycle regularity is determined by the interplay between the four major hormones: FSH, LH, estrogen, and progesterone. However, other hormones, such as thyroid hormone, can impact your menstrual cycle as well. Tracking your cycle can give clues to the changes in these hormones and how they interact with each other.

3. Understand how stress affects your cycle

Have you ever noticed a late period during a stressful time? Cortisol, your stress hormone, can also affect your cycle length and regularity. Track your cycle to better predict how stress can affect you. Moreover, you can track your cycle to understand if stress management techniques, like acupuncture, meditation, or other treatments, make an impact on your hormone health.

4. Understand how body fat affects your cycle

Body fat can impact your hormone production and how hormones interact with your reproductive organs. Too little body fat, as in the case of people struggling with eating disorders or extreme workout routines, can cause irregular menstrual cycles. In addition, people who have body mass indexes (BMI) of more than 30 kg/m2 can be predisposed to conditions like diabetes mellitus or PCOS, which can impact cycle length and regularity. Tracking your cycle can help you understand how body fat changes can affect your hormone health.

5. Helps your doctor monitor your other medical conditions

A primary care doctor or OB/GYN specialist typically asks about your cycle length and regularity during your visits. If your healthcare provider is working up a hormonal issue, such as menopause or infertility, they typically will ask for a blood draw on day 3 or day 21 of your cycle. 

Knowing your cycle can help your doctor diagnose hormonal conditions and monitor other conditions. As mentioned previously, conditions such as thyroid disorders, PCOS, and diabetes can often impact your menstrual cycle. 

Expert Cycle Tracking Tips From Dr. Salwan, ND

Tracking your cycle can be as simple as a paper calendar or it can be logged in a mobile app. Here are tips from naturopathic doctor Dr. Salwan:

    • Track when your cycle starts: Your cycle starts on the day you notice spotting or bleeding for your period.
    • Track when your period phase ends: Note the last day of your period to calculate your period length.
    • Track when your cycle ends: Your cycle ends the day before your period starts again.
    • You can track your cervical mucous, discharge you notice, cramps you experience, and other symptoms like mood changes, bloating, acne, or breast tenderness as well. 
    • There are many mobile apps that you can log your cycle details in addition to other symptoms you may experience throughout your cycle. 
    • If you’re concerned about your digital privacy on mobile apps, you can always use a physical diary, journal, or calendar to track your cycle.

Talking to a healthcare professional like your naturopathic doctor can help you decode your health through your cycle tracking.