How to track your cycle

How to track your cycle

How to track your cycle

If your Instagram feed looks anything like ours, you’ve probably seen an overload of information about how you should eat and exercise in each phase of your menstrual cycle, how it works, and a surplus of information on how and why to track it. Talk of conception and cycle tracking is becoming baked into the zeitgeist, and we're here to cut through the noise and clarify all things cycle tracking. If you’re thinking about getting pregnant you may be wondering how to track your cycle, or when the best time to try is. We’ve got your back. We’ve partnered with Oula, a modern maternity clinic that brings together midwives and OBGYNs, to provide information on all things cycle tracking. 

So where to start? Preconception is a time to do a whole person inventory of your health, and it’s always a good idea to start understanding your body and tracking your cycle when you’re trying to conceive. Cycle tracking can help you estimate ovulation and determine hormonal changes. But first, let’s make sure we understand our cycle.

What is the menstrual cycle?

Your cycle refers to the monthly changes a woman’s body goes through to prepare for the possibility of pregnancy. The menstrual cycle starts with the first day of your period and ends when the next period begins, but it is so much more than just your period. An entire menstrual cycle usually lasts between 24 and 38 days, but the length may vary from cycle to cycle, year to year, and woman to woman. 

There are four main phases: menstruation, the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase.

Phase 1: Menstrual Phase

What happens in your body? 

  • The first day of your period is the start of your menstrual cycle. The uterus lining breaks down and sheds galore! 

How might it affect you? 

  • You may feel low on energy and have cramps. We’ve all been there…heating pads and drinking water help ease the pain!

Phase 2:  Follicular Phase (AKA Preparing for Ovulation)

What happens in your body? 

  • After the last day of your period, your body preps for ovulation. The lining of your uterus thickens. 

How might it affect you? 

  • Your estrogen levels start to rise and you might find yourself energized and in a better mood. 

Phase 3: Ovulation

What happens in your body? 

  • An egg is released into the fallopian tube and travels to the uterus. If it comes in contact with sperm, it is fertilized. In other words, people normally talk about ovulation in terms of planning sex for the most likely time to get pregnant. 

How might it affect you? 

  • You might feel a boost of energy and inspiration. You might experience an increased sex drive! Read more about this in our article on how your cycle affects sex drive. 

Phase 4: Luteal Phase – End of the menstrual cycle

What happens in your body? 

  • If the egg is not fertilized, the thick uterus lining that has built up will leave your body. This is your menstruation and then the start of a new cycle begins.

How might it affect you? 

  • You tend to feel a bit moodier during this phase. You might also feel easily irritated, experience some sadness or feel anxious. Your breasts can feel more sensitive or even sore. 

So, how do you track your cycle?

The easiest way to do this is with an app on your phone. Some suggestions: Orchyd, Flo, or Glow. Apps can predict menstrual cycles, ovulation, and fertile days. Many also take into consideration PMS symptoms, mood, and sexual activity.

More ways to tune into your cycle

  • Measuring your cycle length
  • Keeping a record of menstrual cycles, including the start and end dates, can help women identify patterns and predict fertile days.

  • Monitoring how your cervical mucus changes
  • Changes in cervical mucus consistency (and volume!) throughout the menstrual cycle can help estimate ovulation. Around ovulation, cervical mucus becomes clear, slippery, and stretchy, often said to resemble egg whites. 

  • Measuring your basal body temperature
  • Take your temperature every morning before getting out of bed and chart it to detect subtle changes in your basal body temperature throughout your menstrual cycle. A slight rise in temperature typically indicates ovulation has occurred.

    What is ovulation testing?

    Ovulation Predictor Kits (OPKs) are at-home tests that measure the luteinizing hormone (LH)  in your urine. These can be used to understand when in your cycle you typically ovulate. The test strip has two lines: the control line and the test line. The control line is just to let you know the test is working, and the test line indicates whether you’re ovulating or not. If the test line is a similar color to the control line, it means your LH levels are high and you’re likely about to ovulate. 

    What is my fertile window?
    The average menstrual cycle includes a specific period of time when exposure to sperm can result in pregnancy. This fertile window consists of 2-5 days before ovulation, ovulation day, and the day after ovulation. This is the time to get pregnant! 

    We've just scratched the surface. For more information and personalized help with preconception, check out Preconception Counseling from Oula. 

    Interested in preconception counseling?

    From demystifying cycle tracking and fertile windows to preparing for genetic testing, Oula has curated a preconception program that goes beyond traditional care and offers personalized support, uniquely tailored to meet your needs.

    What to expect from Oula Health’s Preconception Counseling:

    • A personalized review of your medical history
    • A guide to cycle and ovulation tracking
    • An overview of genetic testing options
    • How to prepare your body for conception
    • Co-creation of a personalized preconception plan
    • A space to discuss your hopes, fears, and address questions and concerns
    • Compassionate & evidence-based guidance from our experienced team

    Book your virtual Preconception Counseling visit with Oula 

    This offering does not include fertility diagnostics or treatments for those actively struggling to conceive. We’d be happy to refer you to one of our fertility clinic partners for that!

    When should I seek additional support?

    • You have been trying for:
      • 1 year it you are <35
      • 6 months if you are 35+
    • You are over 40
    • You are concerned you aren't ovulating
    • You live with a gynecologic health or hormone condition (endometriosis, PCOS, cysts or a known hormonal imbalance)
    • You require intra-vaginal or uterine insemination
    • If you have a male partner or known sperm donor, they may want to seek primary care evaluation at the same time that you do

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