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What is a Menstrual Cycle Chart?

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  • Written By: Leah Bloom
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 30 November 2016
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A menstrual cycle chart is a tool for tracking the menstrual cycle. A typical chart will have space to record such items as basal body temperature, occurrence of intercourse, quality of cervical fluid, and the texture and position of the cervix. Some charts also may include statistics such as vaginal sensation, ovulation and pregnancy test results, and other factors that influence the menstrual cycle, such as alcohol consumption, amount of sleep, and stress or illness. When this data is recorded every day, it can create a picture from which a woman can gauge when she is fertile and when she will get her period. These charts also may help a woman know whether her periods are normal and regular.

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Experts consider basal body temperature, or body temperature immediately upon waking from at least three hours of sound sleep, to be one of the most telling data points on a menstrual cycle chart. At the start of a woman's menstrual cycle, when she gets her period, her temperature is generally low. When she ovulates, her temperature will likely spike due to the increase in progesterone in her system and will remain high until she once again begins to menstruate. By charting her basal body temperature over the course of several months, a woman can learn on what day of her cycle she has historically ovulated and use that information to predict when she will ovulate again. If her temperature remains high for more than 18 days after ovulation, she may also be able to ascertain that she's pregnant.

While other data is simply noted in columns on a typical menstrual cycle chart, basal body temperature is commonly graphed. Each day's temperature point is connected to the next, helping to clearly illustrate the two phases of the menstrual cycle. By counting the last six days before ovulation and marking the temperature one tenth of a degree above the highest temperature during that time, a woman can discern where to draw her cover line — a straight line that covers the entire month of data. Though a woman's temperature may fluctuate within each phase, a normal graph will usually show a set of low temperatures beneath the cover line, followed by a set of higher temperatures above it, which indicate that she has ovulated.

The quality of a woman's cervical fluid is another data point experts consider essential to understanding the menstrual cycle. Before ovulation, cervical fluid may be creamy and white or thin and clear. As ovulation nears, most women produce a slippery, clear, gel-like fluid, commonly referred to as "egg white mucus," that is an ideal medium for sperm. At the peak of fertility, experts say this fluid should be stretchy enough to spread it into a string several centimeters long between forefinger and thumb. After ovulation, cervical fluid may get sticky and quickly dry up, as it is no longer needed to conduct sperm to the egg. Combined with the information gleaned from charting her temperature, a woman can use the quality of her cervical mucus to judge precisely where she is in her menstrual cycle.

Whether or not a woman is trying to get pregnant, keeping a menstrual cycle chart can shed light on her body's natural rhythms. Knowing when she is fertile, when she is unlikely to become pregnant, and when she will get her period can help her plan ahead. Sharing her chart with her doctor can also help her identify issues that may affect her health or ability to conceive.

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lluviaporos
Post 3

@pastanaga - I also want to point out that tracking temperature and the menstrual cycle isn't one of the more reliable methods of birth control. It's not a bad method, but it should be combined with something else, since I believe it's supposed to be something like 80% effective when done properly.

People don't realize that sperm can live in the body for up to a week, so the window of time when you can take advantage of a non-fertile period is actually quite small.

pastanaga
Post 2

@Fa5t3r - I've noticed that the basics like that are often free and then you have to pay a little bit more to get the temperature charts and things. It's probably worth it if you don't want to have to figure it out yourself, but there are plenty of resources out there explaining how to chart your menstrual cycle if you want to do it yourself from scratch.

Even if you don't want to do a lot of charts and graphs right that minute, or you can't imagine needing the information for a while, it's much better to have a long record of it for when you do need it, so I believe it's something every women should do. This applies whether they want children or not, as they will still go through menopause and tracking your regular periods can help when that starts to happen.

Fa5t3r
Post 1

There are some really good applications available these days for this kind of record. I have one that will email me a couple of days before my period is supposed to start and it also graphs the days between cycles and calculates at what point I'm at at any given time.

It doesn't have a lot of the bells and whistles that people might need in order to calculate their peak fertility times, but I'm mostly just keeping a record for medical purposes so it's more than enough for me.

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