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Menstrual Cycle Tracking

Benefits of Understanding Your Cycle
By Elizabeth Friedman, MD

Menstrual cycle tracking has been used by many women as a tool to get pregnant; however, the benefits of tracking your menstrual cycle can go beyond knowing when you are ovulating.

Your hormone levels impact how you feel physically and emotionally. As your estrogen and progesterone hormone levels fluctuate throughout your cycle, you can experience physical symptoms such as breast tenderness, abdominal cramping, bloating and gas. The changes in your hormones can also cause changes in your mood, energy levels and more.

Menstrual cycle tracking can help you understand what is happening inside your body and provide valuable insight on what to expect during your cycle so you are able to better care for yourself.

What is menstrual cycle tracking?
Menstrual cycle tracking is a method used to observe the physical and emotional aspects of your cycle. Monitoring your menstrual cycle can provide you with a better understanding of your body and your needs at any given time throughout the month.

In addition to providing information about your fertility each month, tracking your symptoms can allow you to identify patterns that you may experience throughout your cycle. The fluctuations in your hormone levels can impact everything from the foods you crave to your energy levels and sex drive.

There are many ways to log your menstrual cycle information. You can note your findings on pen and paper or use an app on your smart phone or tablet.

A Look Inside: What Happens Throughout Your Cycle
Your menstrual cycle starts on the first day of your period and ends on the first day of your next period. Typically, the range for a regular cycle is anywhere from 21 to 34 days.

The beginning of your cycle, commonly referred to as your period, is when you bleed and shed the tissue lining of your uterus. Many women have their period for four to eight days. During this time, the hormone estrogen is low, which can lead to changes in mood.

In the first days of your cycle, follicles that contain eggs develop on your ovaries. By the eighth day of your cycle, one egg continues to grow and your estrogen level rises. The higher estrogen level causes the lining of your uterus to thicken to prepare for pregnancy. Estrogen boosts the “feel good” endorphins that lead to increased energy and feeling calm.

Your estrogen level continues to increase until around day 14 of your cycle, when it is at its highest. This high level triggers a rise in the luteinizing hormone (LH), resulting in ovulation. During ovulation, your follicle ruptures and your egg is released. Due to an increased estrogen level, many women feel their best in the days leading up to ovulation.

As your egg travels from your ovaries to your uterus, your body produces more of the hormone progesterone to support a continued thickening of your uterine lining. If your egg is not fertilized, estrogen and progesterone levels begin to drop, which can cause changes in your mood and lower levels of energy.

Take Action: Optimize Your Time
Although each woman may experience different symptoms throughout their cycle, understanding how your hormone levels impact your energy and mood can allow you to understand your body better and create more balance in your life.  

Prioritizing healthy sleep habits, eating a balanced diet and drinking plenty of water plays a vital role in promoting good health.  

During Your Period
As a result of low estrogen levels, you may experience low energy and/or feelings of irritability and/or other changes in mood during your period. Allocating time for rest and engaging in lighter movement to preserve your energy can go a long way in promoting better health. Consider activities such as gentle yoga, stretching or taking a walk outside.

As estrogen and progesterone levels begin to rise, many women experience increased energy, but low stamina. Light cardiovascular exercise, such as a light run, is ideal during this time of your cycle. Your body temperature increases before ovulation, which may lead to disrupted sleep. Limiting your caffeine intake, light exercise and maintaining a consistent bedtime routine can support a better night’s sleep.

Your estrogen level peaks during ovulation, while progesterone levels continue to increase. Many women feel their best during ovulation, experiencing sustained periods of high energy, a balanced mood and a positive outlook. This is the optimal time to engage in more rigorous exercise, such as high-intensity interval workouts or longer runs. For many women, days 12 through 14 are the most fertile during their cycle.

If you are not pregnant, your levels of estrogen and progesterone decrease rapidly, and you may experience lower energy and changes in your mood. During this time, your body is preparing for your next menstrual cycle, so consider light exercise such as gentle yoga or swimming. Many women experience the most fatigue and sluggishness during the last week of their cycle. Scheduling down time or keeping your extra commitments to a minimum can help prioritize rest and maintain balance.  

Whether you are trying to become pregnant or looking to better understand your reproductive system, menstrual cycle tracking can provide valuable insights on the inner workings of your body. For more tips on women’s health, or to schedule an appointment with your obstetrician or gynecologist, please call 1.888.MY.DMG.DR (1.888.693.6437) or schedule an appointment online.

Topics and Subtopics: Women's Health

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