Everything in nature works in cycles, and the female body is no different.
There are seasons of fertility and creation, shedding, and renewal. There’s a time to be out and engaging with the world, and a time to turn in to yourself.
One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is to get to know the patterns and cycles of your own body. Not only can this give you valuable information for your health, but it can help you streamline your life in a way that works for your cycle- instead of feeling like you’re swimming upstream, and going against your own nature.
A totally practical and accessible tool for understanding your body is cycle journaling.
A cycle journal allows you to not only track when you’re menstruating and ovulating, but what your mood may be like at different times of the month, or when you might want to schedule some alone time.
Cycle journaling can give valuable insights in order to help heal reproductive health disorders, to aid you in conception, or to avoid getting pregnant.
To start a cycle journal, first you need a journal of course. Plenty of companies and artists make awesome cycle calendars, but you can totally use any journal or calendar to create one at home.
Creating your own means knowing what to track, luckily, we’re here to help.
First Things First
First of all, get your pages together. We suggest making a document on your computer, or doing it by hand if you’re feeling crafty. Leave a blank space in the corner for the date. You can bind your journal with staples, or yarn.
If you’re using a premade journal, you’ll have to keep a template at the beginning so you remember what to track each day.
Remember that it doesn’t have to be too formal or insightful. Even just jotting down a few words when you have time to will help you get a clearer idea of your patterns and needs.
This one’s obvious. Getting to know the physical shifts that come with different times of your cycle. Wondering what to look for?
Period: The first day of menstruation marks the beginning of your cycle. Not only do you want to track what days your period starts and ends, but also pay attention to the consistency of your blood. What color is it? Are there clots? Is it heavier or lighter than normal? Are you spotting, if so when? Is there an average length of your cycle?
Discharge: Getting to know your vaginal discharge, can seem intimidating at first but becomes natural after a while. Does it smell “normal”? When is it the thickest? Do you know what your discharge looks like right before and during ovulation?
Cervix: Your cervix is the portal from your vagina to your uterus. It changes and fluctuates depending on where you are in your cycle, with pregnancy and labor, and if you’re turned on. Get to know your lady donut, as a key indicator of ovulation.
Breasts: Fluctuations in hormones, like an increase in estrogen and progesterone, may cause your breasts to enlarge or get sore around your period. For some people, they also notice breast differences during ovulation. Talk to your boobs and check in with how they’re feeling throughout the month. They have valuable information!
Temperature: If you are actively trying to conceive (or avoiding conception), you may want to invest in a basal thermometer. These sensitive thermometers can detect the subtle increase in temperature that occurs after ovulation.
Cravings: Any cravings you have, especially during your period may be indicative of a deficiency. Some of the biggest deficiencies that affect your period are iron, magnesium, and calcium. A simple supplement or dietary change may greatly reduce any period problems you’re having.
What else? You may also want to track any changes in your skin or acne, bloating, and intense pains or sensations like cramps, headaches, and backaches.
Mental and Emotional
No, it’s not all in your head. It’s totally normal to have fluctuations in mood and emotions throughout your cycle. Knowing these changes can even help you prevent them, or treat them.
Energy: What time of the month do you have the most energy? How does your attention span change? Are there dramatic dips on certain days? What helps you restore your energy?
Sociability: Yes, your cycle can absolutely influence how social you’re feeling. For the most part, people are more outgoing leading up to and during ovulation. While they tend to want to isolate more during their luteal (premenstrual) phase, and during their period. This is just the standard, what is normal for you?
Sex Drive: Sometimes, hormones=horniness. You may be the most turned on during ovulation, as that’s nature’s intention, but plenty of people find themselves horny during their period, at the end of it, or any other time of the month. Do you have a specific pattern?
Moods: One of the most quintessential PMS “symptoms” is moodiness and irritability. When tracking your moods, also pay attention to when you feel your happiest, your most sensitive, the most tender, and if these change on certain days of your cycle.
Congratulations! Now you know how to navigate an incredibly helpful tool in the world of reproductive health.
No matter where you are in your reproductive journey. Whether you’re menopausal, on birth control, pregnant, or bleeding regularly – you can journal your cycle. Just make appropriate adaptations for whatever phase you’re in.
While you want to write in it as consistently as possible, there’s no need to be hard on yourself if you miss a day here and there. A balance of flexibility and consistency is all you need to decode your cycle, and get to know your body on a deeper level.
Natasha’s passion for reproductive health began at age fourteen, when she was present for the birth of her youngest sister. Her incredible experiences as a birth doula, has given her hands on insight into the magical realm of birth, pregnancy, and all things in between. Her role as a birth worker, is her way of serving as an activist. She uses writing as a key educational tool for creating change in how we view reproductive health as a whole.