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Your Menstrual Cycle: Beyond Inconvenience to Empowered Health – Practical Insights and Tools

In reality, many women may not give much thought to monitoring their menstrual cycle. The primary concerns or interests often revolve around practical matters:

  1. Knowing When Menstruation is Coming: So they aren't caught off guard with unexpected stains.

  2. Avoiding It Altogether: Due to the substantial discomfort it can bring.

The perspective may shift over time, initially focusing on preventing pregnancy until the desire for pregnancy arises. To be perfectly candid, most women, ourselves included, didn't consider our menstrual cycle a vital sign – it was, at best, an inconvenience. It usually takes a significant disruption to daily life or interference with a goal for us to truly care. We get it; we've been there! If we are being incredibly honest we only started caring when it became a real health concern. 

This is precisely why we want to share our knowledge and experiences with you – because we want more for you! If you need support navigating the unpredictable terrain of female health, we're here to help.

You'll hear this message repeatedly from us because we understand that often, it doesn't matter until it does. We want to be the voice that makes you pause when something feels off or if you notice a change that should be happening. Female health can be intimidating enough; let's not make it scarier. Instead, let's approach it with open eyes. 

We are very thoughtful that opening those eyes the first time can be very scary and not many people volunteer to be scared when it comes to their own health and wellbeing. However, can you also see how fear can turn to ignoring. 

By opening our eyes and gaining awareness not only can we truly understand the power we do have over our own present and destiny but it also can foster empathy and compassion for our fellow females, but it also empowers us to take control of our health proactively.

A few questions: 

  • Are you aware of the potential benefits of understanding your menstruation and ovulation patterns beyond fertility considerations? 

  • Did you know that menstruation does not mean ovulation occurred? 

  • Are you aware having a consistent menstrual cycle does not mean healthy hormone levels?

Understanding and monitoring the menstrual cycle is fundamental to women's health. Detecting hormonal fluctuations by noting changes in sleep patterns and observing the type and quantity of cervical mucus can provide valuable insights. This monitoring begins from Menarche, our very first menstrual cycle, around the age of 12, through Menopause, marking the cessation of menstrual cycles around the age of 51.

In the context of menstrual cycle tracking, various methods offer valuable insights into reproductive health. An evidence-based approach involves tracking Basal Body Temperature (BBT) – think of it as your body's internal thermometer, offering subtle but significant clues about your menstrual cycle. A rise in temperature post-ovulation signals the transition into the luteal phase, a critical aspect of understanding fertility supported by scientific research.

Another evidence-based method is observing changes in cervical mucus consistency, providing a tangible and natural approach to tracking fertility. Think of it as your body's way of communicating fertility signals. The evolving texture of cervical mucus throughout your cycle provides practical insights, backed by scientific evidence.

Menstrual tracking apps, rooted in evidence-based practices, have gained popularity for their user-friendly interfaces. These apps amalgamate a range of data, including BBT, cervical mucus consistency, menstrual flow intensity, and ovulation test results, simplifying the tracking process. They provide a comprehensive overview of your menstrual cycle, offering insights into hormonal fluctuations, fertility windows, and personalized predictions for menstruation and ovulation. 

However, it's essential to approach them with caution, understanding their limitations.

A study of 10 period tracker apps examined gave conflicting information on menstruation dates, ovulation day, and the fertile window. For cycle length, the apps all predicted women 1’s cycles correctly, but for women 2–5, the apps predicted 0 to 8 days shorter or longer than expected. Days of ovulation, for women 1–4, of the 36 predictions, 3 (8%) were exactly correct, 9 predicted 1 day too early (25%), and 67% of predictions were 2–9 days early. For woman 5, most of the apps predicted a later day of ovulation. ( Link )

A study of 90 apps that are marketed as fertility apps found that 54% of apps only used calendar dates to predict ovulation rather than tracking BBT, cervical mucus, or LH (which we will go into, not our favorite method). They found that “dates predicted by period trackers are most of the time accurate unless affected by any other external or hormonal factors'' (Link). 

STOP! Read that again! If you are a long term reader you probably already picked up on how those external and hormonal factors ARE LIFE! All this to say, they are tools and great ones, but understanding more is going to be the key!

Today, we want to provide a small overview of some metrics outside of just menstruation dates that you may have heard of when tracking your menstrual cycle. These metrics are crucial for understanding the nuances and fluctuations happening over the month.

  • LH Test Strips:

    • LH test strips are one approach. Common yet potentially misleading, their accuracy can vary. A rise in LH does not always mean ovulation has occurred. Care must be taken in interpreting results. We will go into more detail on this soon

  • Basal Body Temperature (BBT):

    • Measuring BBT involves taking your temperature before ANY activity each morning. The subtle temperature shift during ovulation, typically 0.5 - 1 F, occurs due to increased progesterone levels.

  • Cervical Mucus Changes:

    • Cervical mucus undergoes distinct changes throughout the menstrual cycle. During the fertile window, mucus becomes clear, slippery, and stretchy – resembling raw egg whites.

  • Mittelschmerz:

    • Symptoms like mid-cycle pelvic pain (Mittelschmerz) can indicate ovulation. While not universal, its presence serves as an additional sign of the fertile window.

  • Testing:

    • The gold standard involves correlating data from the above methods with serum blood tests and/or dried urine, such as the DUTCH Complete or DUTCH cycle mapping for optimal hormone production.

  • Comprehensive Approach:

    • Combining these methods providing a comprehensive picture! 

In conclusion, understanding the intricacies of your menstrual cycle extends beyond mere fertility considerations. Armed with evidence-based tracking methods, such as monitoring Basal Body Temperature and observing changes in cervical mucus, you can gain valuable insights into your reproductive health. While menstrual tracking apps provide user-friendly interfaces, it's crucial to understand they are tools and do have limitations. By incorporating a comprehensive approach, you can paint a clearer picture of your health. Remember, having a cycle does not mean you ovulated nor does it mean you have physiologic beneficial hormonal levels.


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