From my very first visit with Aunt Flow, I have tirelessly tried to learn as much about my cycle as possible. For the first several years my periods were unpredictable and heavy, but after a trial and error stage where I tried different types of hormonal birth control methods, my periods have become much more regulated and lighter. 

Throughout the years I have gone through countless hygiene products in hopes that I would finally stop ruining multiple pairs of underwear, sheets, and pants each month. I’ve gone from pads that could moonlight as diapers to not-so-comfortable tampons. Three years since coming off hormonal birth control, I have now come to rely on period tracking. 

What kept me hooked on my period tracker was what I learned about my body and just how in-tune I became to my needs.

When you track the dates of each period and how long it lasted, it gives you a better prediction as to when your next period will be, which is especially helpful for those women who don’t have regular menstrual cycles and do not take hormonal birth control for regulation.

Typically, an average menstrual cycle lasts about 28 days. However, every woman is different and it is totally normal if your cycle is slightly shorter or longer. (It is still considered regular if the first day of your last period and the next period is between 24 to 38 days.)

A great feature period tracking apps have is the Symptom Log. This allows women to record both the emotional and physical symptoms they experience at any point throughout the month. For those that suffer from premenstrual syndrome (PMS), knowing what to expect and when to expect it can be extremely helpful in managing symptoms.

Some women also track their periods for fertility reasons. Whether the goal is to get pregnant or avoid pregnancy, when you track your period you are able to see all the stages of your cycle, including when you are most fertile and days in which you are actually ovulating. (Ovulation typically occurs in the middle of your 28-day cycle.)

The longer you track your period the more you learn. After some time you’ll start to see a pattern emerge. For example, if you are regularly experiencing PMS fatigue, you may want to take it easy the week before your period. If you have insomnia while menstruating you can adopt a bedtime routine that promotes relaxation and sleep. Maybe you see that each month you tend to have achy muscles or killer cramps… with tracking you are able to anticipate your monthly menstrual pain and combat it with self-care routines. (A hot Epsom salt bath or a monthly massage may be just the ritual you need!)

Additionally, keeping a record of your cycle over time can help you uncover any potential problems such as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) which can cause severe depression, anxiety, and irritability. If you start to experience symptoms you know are not common for you, it could be a sign of non-period related illnesses you’ll be privy to sooner, rather than later. 

There are many different options when it comes to period tracker apps. Some have a news feed and community boards, while others require just the bare minimum of information. Choose the app that fits best with your lifestyle and makes it easiest for you to record each cycle. It takes work, but it’s worth it… period.

Caroline Moore is a freelance writer, part-time English teacher, and collector of flea market finds. She likes to write and discuss topics such as mental health, fashion, feminism, and human behavior. She is from Atlanta, Georgia but currently lives in Prague where she enjoys traveling, learning about new cultures, and aimlessly wandering cobblestone streets. 

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