Menstrual cycle tracking can be tricky when you are unaware of the signs and symptoms of ovulation and an upcoming period. In this post I will clear all of that up for you! We’ll dive into ovulation, cervical mucus (what is that?! Ill explain), and the side effects of your changing hormones.
BUT, first things first, lets define the menstrual cycle
This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through my link I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support!
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice and should not be taken as such. I am not a doctor and do not claim to be as these are solely based on my experiences. Please consult your family doctor before considering any recommendations listed in this post. Thanks!
What is a “regular cycle”
Way back when I was a wee little girl I learned about the menstrual cycle in health class. I learned that when a girl hits puberty, she magically gets a period once every 28 days and that cycle is meant for baby making. The biggest misconception I learned was that the cycle is purely for reproduction, its not, menstruation is actually considered a woman’s 5th vital sign.
So, you hit puberty and you started to bleed once a month (perhaps was not regular for the first year or so) that’s totally normal. Now that it has matured, you may notice your period comes with in 24-35 days depending on the cycle. That range is considered regular.
In addition to your period arriving on a regular basis, the amount of blood that is shed should also be a consistent flow (no spotting) and go from a darker red, to red, to dark again. This shift in colour is due to the flow. Typically, you will start out with a slower flow, therefore, the blood oxidizes and becomes darker. Then, your flow will become quicker and the blood does not have enough time to oxidize so the blood is brighter red. Finally, the flow will slow down as your period ends.
How to track your ovulation?
The menstrual cycle has 2 distinct phases called the follicular phase (pre ovulation) and the luteal phase (post ovulation). Ovulation is the star of the show when it comes to the menstrual cycle. It’s the whole reason we can reproduce! many women think the period is the star but oh no, it’s the result of an egg not being fertilized. After ovulation, there will be distinct rise in body temperature. In addition, prior to ovulation, there will be a change in cervical fluid. These are the 2 main ways to detect ovulation.
Basal body temperature
Basal body temperature is your temp first thing in the morning. For the reading to be accurate it is important to note these factor may give you an inaccurate reading:
- Consuming alcohol, the night before
- Poor sleep
- Being sick
- Less than 4 hours of sleep prior to taking temp
Now that the rules are cleared up, let me outline exactly how you can track your temp to detect ovulation.
Firstly, you’re going to get yourself a BBT thermometer. Why not a regular thermometer? Because the BBT as an 100th decimal. If one were to track with a regular thermometer the rise in temperature would be hard to detect.
Have you ordered your thermometer? Awesome, moving onto step 2.
Every morning when you wake up, you are going to take your temp before getting out of bed, drinking water, or doing ANYTHING. Then, jot that temp on a piece of paper. You can also use a fertility awareness chart to jot down your temp. After doing that every morning you will see a temperature shift in the middle of your cycle. Congratulations! You ovulated.
Cervical mucus (CM)
Cervical mucus (CM) is also known as discharge and is the white stuff you see when you wipe. During your period, cervical mucus is masked by the blood but the menstrual phase is usually a dry time. After your period you will experience more dry days up until about a week before ovulation is going to take place. You can tell you are entering your fertile phase (ovulation) by the amount, texture, and consistency of your cervical mucus.
Approaching the fertile phase your CM will become slippery, clear, much like an egg white in consistency. This makes it easy for sperm to travel to an egg and fertilize it! on ovulation day CM will be at its peak consistency and you may notice a lot of it. After ovulation, CM will dry up again until you period starts.
Apps I love for cycle tracking ovulation
Flo: Flo is amazing and give you further info on symptoms you may be experiencing! The app also predicts ovulation days and when your next period may be. WARNING: this is not an app to use for birth control as predicting ovulation without knowing the signs is a dangerous game.
Flo living: If you are familiar with cycle syncing, this app is for you! The free version not only predicts ovulation and period days, it also gives insight on what phase you are in and how you can support your hormones.
Kindara: My personal favourite! there is a ton of information you can input into this app AS WELL as your morning temperatures. If you are looking for more of a “charting” app, this ones for you!
Natural cycles: Natural cycles is an FDA approved app for birth control! you do have to pay for it BUT when you input enough history about your cycle, it will advise when it is safe to have intercouse and when it is not! Highly recommended for those looking specifically for birth control.
Using cycle tracking as birth control
Tracking your cycle as a form of birth control (or to get pregnant) has a bad wrap. Most women think the fertility awareness method is a guessing game where you play with fire. If you only base your fertility window on previous cycle, yes you are playing with fire, this is called the rhythm method. I highly suggest against it.
The symptom-thermal method has a much high success rate (about 99.6% effective when used correctly). The symptom-thermal method is using charts to track temp as well as paying attention to CM changes to determine when it is unsafe to have unprotected sex and when it is safe.
If you are looking into using the symptom-thermal method as your choice of birth control, please do your research! Here are a few resources that have helped me a lot!
How to tell you period is arriving soon
Using charts, I can pretty much pin point the day I will get my period. However, if you are not tracking you are unaware of when you ovulated, here are some signs you can look for that shows auntie flow is arriving soon:
- PMS symptoms begin to appear
- Digestive upset or constipation
- Feeling cramps
- Breast tenderness
All of these PMS symptoms should not be too intense. If they are, there may be some hormonal imbalances happening.
Read: How to reduce PMS symptoms for more info on how you can relieve some of your pain.
In conclusion, tracking your cycle can be daunting at first, especially if you are charting your cycle. However, everything gets easier with practice! You will also begin to be more in tune with your own body and recognize symptoms unique to you. Tracking your cycle is incredibly empowering! Instead of turning a blind eye, learn to embrace your womanly cycle in all its gloryJ
Let me know in comments below what time of the month it currently is for you! Im in my follicular phase and loving all the energy!
Until next time