Most women have a general sense of when they get their period and how long it lasts. But taking the time to closely track the cycle can offer insight into your overall health and improve your gynecological care.
At Health Solutions, our team offers quality gynecology services for adolescent girls and women of all ages. Understanding these aspects of your menstrual cycle can help you better communicate during your appointments and identify potential issues before they progress any further.
How your menstrual cycle works
When you hear the words “menstrual cycle,” do you just think of your period? In reality, this is only the beginning.
Your menstrual cycle describes the process of your body preparing for pregnancy each month, which can take 21-35 days — or an average of 28 days. Over this time frame, your body produces various hormones that serve a few purposes: help the eggs within your ovaries mature, and thicken the lining of your uterus to support a fertilized egg.
Day one of a menstrual cycle starts when the blood and tissue lining your uterus break down and pass from your body as menstrual bleeding, and you “get your period.” At this point, your hormones are typically at their lowest because pregnancy didn’t occur, so the process begins again.
Approximately halfway through your cycle, your hormones trigger ovulation and release a mature egg, and it passes through one of your fallopian tubes toward your uterus. If fertilized, the egg lands in your thickened uterine lining, which is rich with nutrients to support an embryo. When pregnancy doesn’t occur, your uterine lining breaks down and passes from your body.
What your menstrual cycle can tell you
A "normal" menstrual cycle can vary depending on the woman and where she is in her life. For example, many young women have longer cycles (more than 38 days). In contrast, women in their 40s can become irregular, even stopping and starting for months at a time before menopause (not having a period for 12 months in a row).
When you track your period, you can get a sense of what’s normal for you. These types of details can include:
- Length of your period
- Heaviness or quality of your flow
- Total number of days in your cycle
- Bleeding between periods
- Pain associated with menstruation
- Other symptoms like mood changes, low energy, breast tenderness, or bloating
Having a better understanding of your body makes it easier to detect problems early on. It also helps determine when you are most fertile for when you’re trying to get — or avoid getting — pregnant.
The good news is that tracking your menstrual cycle has never been easier. You can go completely analog, using a paper calendar and diary. Or you can use a period-tracking app that can help keep tabs for you.
Causes of menstrual cycle irregularities
Even if you have normal periods or a diagnosed gynecological condition, tracking your menstrual cycle provides accurate details about your health.
Common issues that can affect your cycle include:
- Being pregnant or breast-feeding
- Vaginal infection
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- Uterine fibroids
- Hormone imbalances, like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Premature ovarian failure
- Eating disorders or extreme weight loss
- Excessive exercising
Fortunately, tracking your period can offer valuable clues in diagnosing these problems during your women’s health exam.
For more information on the importance of tracking your periods, contact our team at Health Solutions. Make an appointment using our online booking portal today and start your journey to great health.