By: Natasha Archary
Most women hate that time of the month. Hormones surge and hold you hostage for approximately 7 days. But tracking your menstrual cycle and getting to know your body’s tell-tale signs that it’s close is something every woman should get familiar with.
Whether you’re trying to have a baby or not, cycle tracking can help you plan better and keep in check when you’re running late and whether it’s a cause for concern.
A regular menstrual cycle means that everything is running smoothly in the baby factory. Your cycle runs like clock every 28 days, with bleeding from 4 to 7 days and 21 days where you go about life no strings attached (yes, the pun is intended).
In the two weeks after your cycle, your body regulates and according to most OBGYN’s, this is when you are most fertile as ovulation is likely to occur around this time. Your body releases an egg from one of your ovaries, this will then travel down the fallopian tube and settle itself comfortably in your womb.
If you do not have unprotected sex and are not planning a baby, sperm and egg don’t meet and the egg will then pass out of your vagina with the lining of the womb. Also known as your period or menstruation.
But if you are planning a baby and have unprotected sex, there is a chance you could fall pregnant.
There are no guarantees
Sex-ed classes need to be updated if you ask me. Instead of driving home the repercussions of having unprotected sex, not that these are unimportant, schools need to start teaching young girls how to care for themselves.
“You’ll fall pregnant if you have sex.”
That’s not my idea of an educational talk. If it were that simple to fall pregnant, then there wouldn’t be so many women weighing options for conceiving due to health issues and other complications. Endometriosis, polycycstic ovarian syndrome, fibroids, hormonal irregularities, thyroid problems, these and other factors may influence the chances of falling pregnant.
Each of the above-mentioned conditions can cause irregular cycles and “pregnancy-like” symptoms. You may think you’re pregnant because you are nauseas, late and emotional but all these symptoms could mean you have insulin resistance. This is just an example.
The point is so many women go through the heartache of thinking they are pregnant because their cycle is late. But a late cycle does not mean you’re pregnant. It could be an indication of a larger, more serious health condition. Something many woman overlook because of a lack of education around these health risks.
Track your cycle
Painful cycles and heavy bleeding are enough to put a halt to any plans you may have for a fun weekend music festival, romantic getaway or some spontaneous fun. Tracking your monthly cycle can be done by simply jotting down the first day of your cycle on your phone.
There are also a few downloadable ovulation and menstrual tracking apps that are free and easy to download. You could try Period Calendar, Flo, Eve or My Calendar and help simplify your monthly routine tracking.
Doing so will identify when there’s an abnormality in your cycle. Are you still bleeding too heavy by day 6? Are you a week late more than three months? Could it be a result of your contraceptive?
You then raise these with your gynae at your next appointment and have them decide on a way forward. Testing for any serious chronic or other medical ailments will be the only way to find the reason for your cycle fluctuating.
Other possibilities for a late cycle could be stress, a change in lifestyle such as excessive drinking, dieting or smoking, lack of sleep and exercise, sex too often, fatigue and medication.
Tracking your cycle and any irregularities can point your gynae in the right direction for treatment and diagnosis. You should never ignore any irregularities, no matter how silly you think they are. Take note of colour of any discharge, extreme pain during your periods, if you experience huge clots during your cycle, basically anything out of the ordinary.
Treating your condition may also help improve your chances of falling pregnant or managing your condition so it’s more bearable.