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Body basics: How to track your cycle

Julie Kraut is a freelance writer and the author of Slept Away and Hot Mess. Visit JulieKraut.com for more.




Your body's menstrual cycle

Tracking your cycle may seem like a pain, but knowing when your period is coming is worth it. You can be prepared with supplies and know when to schedule certain events -- stressful meetings, romantic weekends, even high-calorie girls' nights. Tracking your cycle can also come in handy when you’re ready to get pregnant. You’ll have a better sense of when you’re ovulating and most fertile, and you'll be able to detect when you conceive earlier.

Woman with planner

How to track your cycle

The truth is that tracking your cycle is as simple as getting a calendar and marking when you get your period. We suggest using the calendar that you already keep; there's no reason to have a specific period calendar. Plus, separating your real-life calendar from your menstruation calendar will make planning around your period more difficult. Just be sure to activate the right privacy settings if you use an online calendar. Your new assistant at work probably shouldn't know when you're ovulating.

Mark the first day of your period and count 28 days from then. Highlight that 28th day as when you'll probably be starting your next period. The 28-day cycle isn't exact for everyone, of course. Maybe you're a 29- or 30-dayer. Indicate when you actually do get your period on your cycle tracker, too. After a few months, you'll see a pretty regular pattern, ditch that 28-day mark, and go with the amount of time that works for you.

Note other symptoms

You also may want to indicate other menstrual-related symptoms, such as cramps or a bigger-than-normal appetite. These symptoms might happen the same exact time every month. Carrying some Motrin or healthy snacks at those times might be a smart idea.

Indicate your flow on this tracker, too. Perhaps your first two days are incredibly heavy and the last three are barely a trickle. Knowing when the heavy days are hitting will be helpful for planning beach weekends, for example.

If you miss a period or have a light or heavy one, having all of your info on one calendar could help explain the mystery. You'll be able to see if that month was stressful at work or if you made it to the gym every night for three weeks straight, both of which could affect your flow.

Cycle-tracking resources

Really, all you need is a calendar and a pen or your typing fingers, depending on where you keep your calendar. If you want a little technological help, try sites such as MyMonthlyCycles.com and smartphone apps.

Regardless of how you track, you'll be pleased with the benefits of anticipating and planning for your cycle.

More health tips for women

Quiz: Do you take good care of your body?
Pap Smears 101: What you need to know
6 Ways to boost your body confidence

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