Tracking your periods
Periods is at the same time a boon and a bane. While it is an indicator of the state of a woman’s health, it is also inconvenient particularly when you don’t have the luxury of working from home. Women are expected to keep up during those days and its not just about the pain and other discomfort but even staining worries can lead to lot of unwanted anxiety. We all need a good period predictor.
Usually there are clear symptoms that indicates an impending period but sometimes even with all the symptoms it fails to materialize leading to anxiety. You might go for days expecting it. Getting it unexpectedly early can catch you off guard as well.
I used to track my periods scribbled in the back of a diary or sometimes on a calender. I calculated the dates based on a 28 day cycle. And though I knew approximately when to expect it, the periods are seldom precise and I would be off by a day or two most days. Once I had a smart phone I even tried a period tracking app but the app would self adjust the date based on the average cycle of menstruation and i didn’t like it much.
In order to get a better grip on my symptoms and also to track the changes through the month, sometime in 2015 I started keeping a google spreadsheet where months were marked and I would mark the expected date on the next period in orange and the date I got the periods in red. I would also add symptoms through the month but I was not very consistent.
My chart looked like this.
Other than the fact that I had a general idea if my period was early or late or on time, I didn’t have much information. Glaringly, I didn’t know what the cycle of my period was in terms of no. of days and also how often I was achieving it or missing it. Many days my periods would be off. Also I still had to calculate my due date of my next menstruation manually. Notwithstanding this, I still managed to record my periods over 6 years.
Then one fine day I hit upon a better way to record my periods which instantly gave me much more information about my cycle. I was still using a spreadsheet. But this time in stead of marking the days of the month vertically, I marked the days of the cycle.
I would enter the first date of my period on the top row and using auto-fill would get the date for the 28th day. That would be the due date for the next cycle. Now based on the 28th day cycle, I could ascertain clearly by how much my periods were wavering. I converted all my previously collected data and reworked it as per this new system. And there were revelations which was actually useful. I could now calculate how many times in the past 6 years, my period was on the 28th day. I am now in my mid 40’s and I realized that in the past few years, my cycle was getting shorter. I was more likely to get my period between the 24th and the 27 the day. And in the last 6 years and more, only on one occasion was my period earlier on the 23rd date. It might have been a freak period, or I might even have marked the date incorrectly. Its also possible that the period started in the middle when I wasn’t sure if the first day of the period should be taken as the previous day or the successive day.
Recently, before I started the new system of marking, on couple of occasions I thought my periods were abnormally early. But revisiting the data I realized that they were within my range of 24th to 27th date.
Now even if I got symptoms suggesting an earlyadvent of menstruation, my dates tell me the likelihood of it happening.
I also mark significant symptoms as a comment on the relevant dates. These can be retrieved for future references. For example I might mark that I was constipated or had loose stools. Or that I had a headache. I might mark the approximate date of ovulation and then see if I can predict the date of the periods more accurately.
Its fun to play a scientist particularly when the object of experimentation is your own body. Healthy Menstruation is vital for a woman’s health. And it is important we get as much information about it.
If you are a woman, its important you track your periods consistently. So you are on top of your ‘Cycle’ and are aware of any discrepancies.
I have two daughters one of whom is now a teen. I have a spreadsheet tracker for her periods and hopefully she will be able to take over independently.