Menstrual Cycle Tracking: What I Learned After Consistently Doing It For 5+ Years

Menstrual cycle tracking, is this something you do?

I only ask because I’m somebody who would do my best to avoid menstrual cycle tracking only to do a complete 180 when my periods went awry.

When I first started menstruating, my mum was very prepared. She came armed with a range of pads for me to try and a way to track periods too. Whenever I started a period, she would urge me to mark ‘TP’ (for Tara period) on the family calendar. I’d do the same when it was over (‘TP end’), whenever I started to get moody she’d check the calendar. We would count the days since my last period and gauge a rough idea of how far off my period was. 28 was the ballpark in which we would measure. Looking back, this is a pretty great habit to instil. Did I appreciate it at the time? Not really.

How I got started with menstrual cycle tracking

Growing up, I hated my period and tracking it meant acknowledging its existence. For years, I would be caught off guard by my body and my mum would despair quietly trying to mark on the calendar. She did the same for my sister too.

It wasn’t until my early twenties my unruly cycles bothered me enough to make an effort to keep track. I downloaded an app on my phone and was excited to start keeping up with my body. After putting off doing this for so long and suffering as a consequence, I made an effort to track anything I could. Headaches, when I had sex, change in discharge, if I ached more on a certain day. Basically anything and everything I could think of.

CYCLE TRACKING - when you log details about your menstrual cycle such as when it starts, what symptoms you experience and use the information you've logged to predict when your next period is about to start

PERIOD TRACKING APPS - interactive devices that help a person track their monthly cycle from the comfort of their phone

Over the years I have used a number of methods and apps to track my cycles and I have gone through many phases with it. I have gone from doing it for months almost obsessively to getting frustrated with my body and giving up altogether. I have forgotten to input some months and given myself a heart attack when my app tells me I’m 100+ days late. Using a mix of paper and technology, I’m happy to report the habit has stuck.

@ladycatstello I’ve been tracking my cycles for 5 whole years! You can use an app but I like pen & paper too 🩸#KindAndFree #periodtips #periodtiktok #cycletracking #menstrualcycletracking #bujo #bujoinspiration ♬ Cozy Beat – Aesthetic Sounds

Here’s what tracking my cycle over the years has taught me:

It’s a great way to get to know your body

I started to give cycle tracking a proper go during a time where I had no idea what my body was doing. Fresh off of years of birth control use and hormones all over the place, I had no idea when to expect my period. You may be wondering what is the point of tracking when you don’t bleed regularly, but hear me out! By tracking when I did and keeping up this habit all the way through to when my body reached some form of normality has allowed me to understand what to expect going forward. Simply put, cycle tracking is a great way to get to know your body and what to expect from it. You have information to refer back to and can spot when something is off. For example, having an extremely unpredictable or heavy period can often be an indication something else is going on.

Body literacy is an essential part of self care

Bodies are all different. I’m a firm believer that observing and understanding your body is a vital part of self care. By tracking and logging various details of your cycle, you’re able to gain better insight that allows you to live in sync with your body. Not only do you have a wealth of knowledge at your disposal, you’ll also be able to recall things you might otherwise forget when discussing health issues or concerns.

My favourite thing about tracking my menstrual cycle is knowing how I will feel on a particular day (let’s say day 2 of my cycle, which is day 2 of my period for example) and avoiding tasks I know will be more difficult during this time. I also like to set aside relaxing activities to do even if it’s just having a duvet day.

It can help you plan ahead

Getting into the habit of tracking your cycle on regular basis should allow you to identify signs to look out for and help you feel more prepared each month. Tracking my cycle has allowed me to identity causes for concern, forced me to actually rest when my body needs to and empowered me to accept the fact I just cannot face certain things whilst on my period! Essentially it’s all about making it easier on yourself, which brings me to my last point.

Everyone’s normal is different

Tracking your cycle is the only way to figure out what is normal for you and your body. For too long, we have been told that you should have a 28 day cycle and if you don’t you’re a freak. Ok perhaps I’m overreacting but my point being this is actually a rigid and quite outdated measurement! There are a wild number of factors that can impact a cycle and really an indicator closer to 21 – 35 days is probably more accurate. But again, it really depends on you! For example, anywhere between 30 – 40 days is normal for me personally.

If you’re looking to get into menstrual cycle tracking and want to learn more about periods, consider buying a copy of Red Moon Gang: An Inclusive Guide to Periods today!

Red Moon Gang book cover

Red Moon Gang: The Book

Filled with information and free from cultural hang-ups, this gender-neutral book is directed at anybody that's ever dealt with having a period. Writer and influencer Tara Costello pulls together her research and experience into a book that's wide-ranging, inclusive, and fun. Boldly illustrated by Mary Purdie, Red Moon Gang tackles every aspect of the menstrual cycle--from the biology and science behind why you bleed every month, to the latest findings on hormonal fluctuations (aka, why you're PMSing so bad). It takes a deep dive into the different types of menstrual products available, including their pros and cons, and covers various period conditions such as endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome. Drawing from her own experience, Costello explores how having a period shaped her relationship to her body and her place in the world. And she discusses topics that aren't generally covered in health class too--such as how periods are a particular challenge to those experiencing body dysmorphia, individuals living in poverty, and disabled people. Finally, she offers up a Period Toolkit, listing products and retailers she loves, tips on how to make menstruating easier, and resources for further education.

Available NOW!

Learn more