A guide to period tracking
Recording your cycle may help you identify your perimenopause and understand your symptoms
During your lifetime, you can expect to have around 450 periods . You may be really familiar with your cycle, be it from making a note in your diary of when your period is due, or just being used to your symptoms, such as a dip in mood a couple of days before or experiencing menstrual cramps.
You can be perimenopausal and still have regular periods, or you might find that your periods have changed since you’ve started experiencing hormonal fluctuations and perimenopausal symptoms – they might have become more erratic, or changed in length or flow. Whatever your situation, tracking your periods can be beneficial.
What is period tracking?
Quite simply, period tracking is making a note of when your period occurs. You may have done this in the past – by putting a ‘P’ in your kitchen calendar, for instance – or you might make a note in your diary or phone. Period tracking can be as basic as just noting the start and end date, but there are now more ways than ever to track your flow.
Smartphones have in-built apps that allow you to track your period, you can also do it on your Apple or Garmin Watch or use a dedicated health or period tracking app. These allow you to record more information – alongside the dates of your period, you can note how heavy or light your flow is each day, and if you are experiencing any accompanying symptoms, such as cramps, acne breakouts or skin changes, tiredness, headaches, bloating or mood fluctuations.
Why would I want to track my period?
Throughout your life, there may have been times when you’ve tracked your period – for instance to help determine when you’re ovulating, if you’re planning on having a baby, or to help plan holidays or important events so that they don’t coincide with your period. Sometimes it’s just helpful to know so that you have sanitary wear on you or so that you’re aware of any effects on your mood.
Some women who have, or suspect they have, PCOS, PMT, thyroid disorders or endometriosis find it useful to track their symptoms alongside information on their periods.
Tracking your period can also give you valuable insight into your health or future health. For example, having a short menstrual cycle (25 days or fewer) has been linked to early menopause and more menopausal symptoms .
How does it help in perimenopause?
If your periods have become more erratic, you may wonder if there’s any point in trying to track them – after all, they’re unpredictable! But if you’re experiencing other symptoms – for instance, brain fog, hot flushes, joint aches or an increase in migraines – this may help your healthcare provider make a diagnosis of perimenopause.
Newson Health GP and Menopause Specialist Dr Clair Crockett says: ‘Sometimes it’s not until you track when your periods are coming and what else you are noticing through your cycle that you realise something might be afoot. Looking back over a period of weeks or months can really help you establish what could be happening so you can feel empowered to reflect on what you have learned through doing this and consider what you might want to do about it.’
Your period information can be invaluable for your GP or healthcare provider. Your appointment may only last 10 minutes so if you’re able to take a log of symptoms with you, you’ll be able to work in partnership with your GP to make a diagnosis, be that of perimenopause or another underlying health condition.
Logging information such as your emotional state, energy level and behaviour can also be useful – you may notice a pattern between these and where you are in your cycle. It can be reassuring to know that a dip in mood, for instance, can be hormone related as treatment is available should you want it.
Finally, one benefit to tracking your period is thatit gives you back a sense of control over your body. There are lots of variables during the perimenopause, and it can be alarming to not know what’s going on, but the more you know about your own body, the more you can work with it.
Is there anything else I should consider?
It’s important to remember that it’s not just your age or hormones that can affect your cycle – other medical conditions can have an impact, as can stress.
You might also want to choose an app that’s dedicated to perimenopausal women as some can focus more on ovulation and fertility.
Dr Clair says: ‘balance is a free app that has an in-built period tracker and it also allows you to log perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms. It allows you to get a good picture of the symptoms you’re getting in a way that’s easy to relay to a clinician so you can get help tailored to your needs.’
Rest assured that balance does not share data with third parties for marketing purposes.
- Chavez-MacGregor M., van Gils C.H., van der Schouw Y.T., Monninkhof E., van Noord P.A., Peeters P.H. (2008), ‘Lifetime cumulative number of menstrual cycles and serum sex hormone levels in postmenopausal women’, Breast Cancer Res Treat. 108(1) pp.101-12. doi: 10.1007/s10549-007-9574-z.
- Mínguez-Alarcón L., Rifas-Shiman S.L., Soria-Contreras D.C., Hivert M.F., Shifren J., Oken E., Chavarro J.E. (2022), ‘Self-reported menstrual cycle length during reproductive years in relation to menopausal symptoms at midlife in Project Viva’, Menopause 29(10): p 1130-1136. DOI: 10.1097/GME.0000000000002042