The Levels and Options of Cycle Tracking
Updated: Nov 12, 2020
Looking back over the last few years, I’ve realised just how much using reusable pads have changed my views on periods and my cycle as a whole. For many years prior to switching to cloth pads, I tracked my cycles in different ways but I never really realised until recently how useful tracking cycles can be. For today’s blog post, I wanted to discuss the different levels of cycle tracking as well as the pros and cons of each level of tracking. Of course, this post is not an exhaustive list of the different ways you can track your cycle but I just wanted to illustrate the most common ways I’ve tracked myself as well as seen other menstruating people use. This post is also not intended to judge anyone in the way that they choose or choose not to track their cycle.
This level of tracking is simply keeping track of the date your period begins every cycle. A pro of this is that it is very accessible - you only really need a calendar/diary to make a note of the date. It may also be useful for those who would rather take a ‘hands off’ approach when it comes to menstruating (such as those who feel triggered by it due to personal reasons). The con is that it does not include much detail that may otherwise be handy for general health tracking or if you need records of anything during a medical examination.
This level includes the basics of keeping track of the date your period begins as well as some symptoms or handy other pieces of information such as the length of bleeding, any symptoms such as cramping, breast pain or ovulation pain. A benefit of this is being able to keep track of PMS so you can monitor any changes to your overall health. Something that could be considered a con is that I personally found that the easiest way of logging various symptoms was via an app - not everyone always likes to use apps, especially where entering personal health information is concerned.
Some of you may not be aware of this level of cycle tracking but, it is what I personally have been doing for the last 3 years. As a Fertility Awareness Educator, its also something I love to talk about! Using a FABM (Fertility Awareness Based Method) means tracking bioindicators according to your chosen method - the method I use involves tracking cervical fluid, basal body temperature and, optionally, cervical position. Many users of FABMs like to track ‘secondary’ fertility signs too like what was mentioned in the previous level (i.e ovulation pain). The pros of tracking using a FABM are that, if using a scientifically backed method according to the rules, it can be used as a method of fast-tracking trying to conceive or as a way of preventing a pregnancy. It also can provide you with a significant amount of health data that can be useful in the diagnosis of several cycle-related issues when used in partnership with health professionals. The cons of using a FABM are that it can be time-consuming or expensive to learn since either you would need to do a significant amount of personal study to ensure you know the rules (especially when using it to prevent pregnancy) or you may need to pay out of pocket to work with an instructor or attend their course (this type of tuition is unfortunately not covered by most types of medical insurance or by the NHS). As a side note, if there is enough interest, I will consider holding further courses for you to learn the Symptothermal double-check method that I am certified to teach - please drop me a message if this is something you may be interested in and I will be able to add you to a waiting list. Furthermore, following a FABM isn’t for everyone as, for some, it is simply an overload of data or they have no reason to use it. For those using a conventional method of birth control such as hormonal pills, injectables or an IUD, you likely will not see the fluctuations someone with a natural cycle will see due to the hormones in your system, given this, tracking to this level would hold little value.
I hope this post was interesting and informative. If you track your cycle, which level do you most identify with? Did you find that beginning to use reusable menstrual products changed your view of your period/cycle? Had you heard about FABMs before today? Please feel free to comment or message me to talk about these questions - I love to hear your thoughts!