How We Track Our Cycles
Cycle tracking is a hot topic at ohne HQ. From comparing apps and obsessing over symptoms to swapping tips and sharing our CBD, it’s safe to say we’re pretty obsessed with figuring out our bodies and whatever the hell our hormones are getting up to on any given day. For the uninitiated, cycle tracking can tell you so much more about your body than just when your next period is due (though that’s pretty cool, too). We’re giving you a little peep into our diaries/phones/minds and tell you the ways in which we cycle-track, from the regular to the irregular, from the lazy to the OTT.
Although I’ve always been intrigued by cycle tracking – and, to be honest, a little concerned and frustrated by my lack of knowledge around my hormones and what the hell they’re doing, I’m yet to download a period tracking app. I was intrigued by Natural Cycles a while ago when I was after an alternative form of contraception that wasn’t hormonal – at the time I was new to the copper coil and for 6 months after I had it fitted my periods got ridiculously, almost unimaginably, heavy. Thankfully, it’s calmed down a lot now and I’ve finally got the baby-proofing that works for me!
My body is pretty good at telling me where I’m at in my cycle. I know roughly when I’m ovulating as I get small shooting pains; I know that I go wild at my boyfriend just before my period starts; I know that every time my period starts I’m baffled as to how I seem to have managed to go up a dress size overnight. My boyfriend, James, actually tracks my period more than I do. It helps him know when to save those big conversations that might otherwise involve slammed doors for the times when my hormones aren’t raging quite so fiercely.
Honestly, though, the best period tracker for me is Nikki. Without fail every single month we compare our cycles, counting back from the time we were last synced up and doing the maths (four weeks for her, five for me) and I’ll know when to expect my period. When best friends double up as period tracking apps, you know you’ve made it!
I started cycle tracking in February and have tried doing this in many forms. I started with a worksheet downloaded from Maisie Hill’s website; the idea is to fill in the small boxes within a circle, jotting down a couple of words a day. Then I moved on to writing a page a day in a separate notebook. Now I use my Bullet Journal to track my cycle alongside the rest of my life. I separate a section off each day and scribble down how I’m feeling and any key symptoms I have.
Once I started cycle tracking I began sharing my experience on my Instagram account. I wanted to make my followers aware of the benefits of being mindful of your cycle – I believe that cycle tracking can support your mental health and support your relationships with those around you. I’ll share what day of my cycle I’m on and how I’m feeling, as well as information that will be useful to my followers, such as the various ways you can help support yourself at certain points in your cycle. This also holds me accountable and encourages me to make sure I am cycle tracking every day – I have had a lot of messages from followers thanking me for getting them into tracking. It’s also encouraged me to go deeper with cycle tracking to figure out why I feel the way I do. I’m really exploring who I am at each point in my cycle.
I track my cycle using Google Docs – weird, I know, but I’m next-level obsessive about recording everything that might be a period/PMS/ovulation symptom as well as the external factors that might have influenced something. I don’t care one bit about fertility, but I do care that my hormones seem to be royally screwing me over half the time so I’m trying to get a clear sense of what’s going on. I want to know if my headaches are following some hormonal pattern or if they’re brought on by too much coffee and not enough sleep; if my mood is low because I’m in week three of my cycle or because I’ve had an stupid argument with my boyfriend… or both. I’ve been doing this for about six months, and the document is almost 30 pages long. In order to help me navigate the document I highlight different key words in different colours – so that, at a glance, I can tell what days I’ve exercised, worked like a machine, drunk alcohol, had a lot of coffee, had sex, taken CBD, got my period, or had a headache. I’ll make comments down the side if I notice a trend (like that I’m always more motivated on Mondays, no matter where I am in my cycle, or that week three is pretty much always a black hole of progesterone-induced misery for me). It might seem totally bananas to other people but it works for me!
I track my cycle using ‘Flo’. Of all the apps in the Google Play Store this was the least cringe to look at. It’s still pink which is a bit… whatever, but there aren’t any flowers or overly complicated design features (as a designer myself I’m all about the design of apps!) I mainly use it so I can keep a check on my mood. I get major PMS rage in the days before my period, so it helps me feel more in control to know the rage is hormonal. My period is super irregular, so tracking it helps me to identify patterns and better predict my period’s arrival.
I don’t use it to log symptoms – I just dislike answering so many questions. I wish I could pick the symptoms that matter to me and have the app only ask me those 2-3 questions – the sheer amount of things you can log is overwhelming. If it were up to me, I would design a neutral, incredibly simple app with basic visualisation of data so you get a snapshot in an instant of where you’re at in your cycle, what you might be feeling, and why.
I used to track my periods with an app called Clue. It was simple to use; it had great options where you could select your cravings, exercise done, mood. I did that for a couple of years until I missed inputting the information a few times and it messed everything up – it reconfigured my data as if I’d just missed all those periods so made my cycle predictions way off. Then for some time I was actually having my period about 1 week after Jo (Fulfilment manager at ohne) so I could predict my cycle from hers! I’ve been meaning to start cycle tracking officially again (so I’m excited to hear what all the other ohne gals are doing!) but at the moment I still know when to expect my period as it arrives at the end of the calendar month – pretty convenient!
I try to always make a note of when my period starts and ends in my planner by adding a star next to the date (although, really, I should draw a middle finger). This is something I’ve been doing since I was 13, when I’d note it in my school homework diary. My mum had suggested it as soon as my periods started so I would have a rough idea of when my period would come knocking. I’ve never been very strict with this though – I stopped doing it at uni because I didn’t use a planner – but I’m trying to get a better idea of my cycle length now so even if I don’t do it in a physical planner I’ll always make a mental note of it. I don’t track it for anything else other than period prediction as I’m quite fortunate with my hormones and symptoms – apart from having horrible cramps on the first day of my period, I don’t have any complaints with things like menstrual migraines or bloating that I’d want to keep track of.
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I’ve never properly tracked my period as I use the pill to determine when I should be on. I tend to have around four days of bleeding, starting on a Thursday lightly and then by Saturday it’s a blood bath. When I take my pill again the following Tuesday I do still have some light bleeding but it’s totally gone by Thursday.
Since working at ohne I’ve started to notice my cycle more, and monitor when I’m feeling particularly bloated/moody after my period – I sometimes feel like I’m pregnant I can get so bloated! But it’s amazing to have the knowledge at my fingertips now to know exactly what is going on in my body. It’s definitely a New Years Resolution of mine to try and monitor my cycle more closely, as I think it’s empowering to have more knowledge and understanding about your body.
I’ve been tracking my cycle every since I came off the pill (back then my period was every 4 weeks to the day). My period disappeared for a year after coming off the pill and when it came back my periods were so unpredictable and AWFUL that I had to start tracking. I currently use Moody Month to track my cycle – I find it so helpful to understand how my hormones are ebbing and flowing across the month. For example, when I’m ovulating I’m so much more positive and enjoy working out, whereas the week before I’m the worst kind of human – I get so moody and unbelievably tired (CBD always helps though!)
Are you new to the cycle-tracking game or a card-carrying member of the club? If you’re into logging the symptoms and counting off the days, how do you track your cycle? Let us know in the comments or come join the convo over on insta!
Header image credit: @mre.soeur
Other images: ohne; Clue; @moodymonth