With all of the different ways to track your menstrual cycle these days, including a plethora of high-tech, period-tracking apps and online calendars, it's easy to lose sight of which information is most important. So, what are the basic things you should keep in mind? Cycle Technologies EduSeries host, Ann Mullen, spoke with women's health expert, Dr. Nerys Benfield, OB-GYN, to find out. The EduSeries interview below with Dr. Benfield includes her top three tips to help you gain a better understanding of period tracking and the reasons you may wish to do it.
1. Note the key characteristics: period duration and heaviness, pain level, and cycle length.
2. Don't rely on memory.
3. Be consistent.
Key characteristics tell a story. For instance, if your periods come on a regular basis, you can be pretty confident that your hormonal system is functioning as it should. Or if you were to have exceptionally heavy or crampy periods, your doctor would know where to start looking for potential health issues.
Noting your period information as it happens is the best way to ensure that your record is accurate. If you wait until days after an event, you may forget the date or not remember critical details, or you may forget to enter the information all together. So don't rely on memory when period tracking.
Finally, be consistent. When period trackng, enter your period-start date each and every cycle, as well as the other key characteristics. In this way, you will easily begin to see your own unique patterns and recognize if something is out of the ordinary. For example, what does it mean if you have 24-day cycle? Isn't that a short cycle? Shouldn't it be 28 days? Well, it depends. By itself, a single data point does not tell you much. But if you have a record of past cycles, you can compare. Your record may show that your cycles are usually in the range of 23 to 27 days, so a 24-day cycle would be normal for you. But if your record showed a pattern of 32- to 35-day cycles, then a 24-day cycle could be an indicator of a change in your body.
Of course, there are other interesting symptoms and characteristics to keep track of as well, such as PMS symptoms or fertility signs. But don't neglect the basics for laying a foundation of your menstrual cycle record. To hear further details on period tracking and what information can be gleened from your period record, listen to the CT EduSeries interview with Dr. Benfield, OB-GYN.
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