by Clinical Naturopath Mindy Duncan
Ladies, do you chart your menstrual cycle? You’re probably really aware of menstrual charting but you’re not planning to conceive at the moment so don’t need to right? Well, what if I told you there were many other invaluable benefits to this practice, other than preparing for conception.
Charting your cycle can be a really fantastic tool to implement to help you gain a deeper understanding of your own menstrual health. Of course, charting can & is typically used by many females to either prevent or gain pregnancy depending on their present fertility goal but that’s not all it can do. Cycle charting can be an indispensable practice to implement for a number of reasons. Here are the main reasons why charting your cycle is beneficial for reasons other than for fertility.
No two menstrual cycles are exactly the same & having a deep understanding of your unique cycle & what is normal for you can be invaluable. This knowledge is especially important if you start to notice any changes such as pain, irregularity or other negative symptoms which might require further investigation.
Unfortunately it’s fairly common to know very little about your own menstrual cycle as this information is rarely passed on or taught to us at the beginning of our menstrual life. Thankfully this is something that is easy to change.
When we chart our cycle we can visually see it’s unique patterns & the influence our hormones have over our mental, emotional & physical healthy throughout the month. We are the first to know when something abnormal emerges.
Fundamentals for charting your cycle
There are many templates available on line, even Etsy has some great charts available for download. If you need something easy to follow with grids & prompts or something aesthetically pleasing then this is a great option for you. Otherwise all you need is a blank notebook, preferably lined or with grids, to get you started. I would recommend putting all the dates down the left-hand side, with the corresponding cycle day next to it. For ease perhaps start on Day 1, the first day of full menstrual flow.
This is the menstrual chart I often use with patients & for myself. Download Menstrual Symptom Chart here. This chart is not inclusive of temperature charting. You can you use this Basal Body Temperature chart too if you wish. If you’re new to charting I would generally recommend starting with simple symptom charting or even daily symptom journaling.
With basic symptom method you are taking note of any changes in your menstrual flow, any related menstrual symptoms (i.e. PMS), daily energy, mood changes, emotional health & digestion. Once you are really comfortable here you can progress onto basal body & cervical mucus charting if your wish. This practice is generally referred to as the Symptothermal method. Fertilitycharting.com.au is an excellent resource for learning how to use this method. I would highly recommend this website if you wish to explore this further.
Gaining compassion for yourself
When we begin the charting process those first few months can be both interesting & a touch tedious, remembering to capture all this data can sometimes feel silly or OTT. The real beauty of charting is after you’ve completed a number of cycles & can begin to see symptomatic patterns emerging. You might start to recognise that every week before you period arrives you start to feel more easily emotional, introverted & not all that interested in being social. Do you always get pain or bloating the day before your bleeding starts or maybe sometimes headaches? Do your bowel habits change dramatically on your period or around ovulation?
When we understand & can predict these patterns we are able to gain so much more compassion for ourselves, especially during phases of our cycle that feel more uncomfortable. Our hormones have (& will always) have an especially strong influence over our emotions, mental health & energy. Knowing when we are about to experience changes in how our body & mind feels is helpful in knowing that what is happening is okay & that it will pass. It is totally normal to not feel exactly the same every day of the month, in fact it’s very normal to feel this way. Remember its OKAY to say no, it’s OKAY to need alone time, it OKAY to honour what your body needs.
Have trust in the charting process & you too will also see your own beautiful cyclic patterns emerging.
With that being said however if you are experiencing difficult menstrual symptoms I strongly encourage you to investigate this with a qualified health practitioner. Difficult symptoms are often a sign that something may need more attention from a professional.
Preventative health care
The most important reason to chart your cycle is for preventative reasons. When we know the in’s & out’s of our cycle, we are the first to notice when something seems a bit off. Are you all of sudden getting more intense pain or noticing the presence of more clots? Are you missing more cycles than normal or experiencing more uncomfortable mental health symptoms during the premenstrual phase? Could your late period be due to pregnancy? Knowing what is normal for us, is the only way to know what sits out of the normal & then therefore can be addressed quickly.
Woman to woman I really encourage you to dust off the pen & paper & start charting your cycle from now. You won’t regret it I promise.
If you would like to learn more about charting your cycle please do get in touch. I practice via the Vive Health Clinic Tuesday & Wednesday & would love to help.
Mindy Duncan is a Bachelor qualified clinical naturopath with special interests in women’s health, menstrual & hormonal health, thyroid function & self-esteem. Mindy is available for consultations via the Vive Clinic on Tuesday & Wednesdays.