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Cycle Charting: what, how, why?


The menstrual cycle is a driving force of emotions, physiology, hormones and energy for women and menstruating people. Each and every individual's cycle will be different from the person beside them, and even from month to month. How then, can you know where you are at in your menstrual cycle?


Cycle charting is a non-hormonal way of achieving or avoiding conception, a vessel for deeper connection to your womb, body and feminine essence. When we chart our cycle each month, we can observe and appreciate the ever-flowing nature of our cycle and what, when acknowledged, our cycle can offer us in each of its phases.



Source: Poosh via Pinterest


First, I want to share with you an interesting and impactful piece of study that will showcase the connection between the menstrual cycle and birth.


Sharon Maloney (2010) looked at how menstrual shame affects birth. She found that in Western culture, menstruation and birth are seen as unstable, pathological processes requiring medical control. Menstrual shame was shown to be a key factor in predisposing women to approach birth feeling disempowered, fearful and vulnerable to intervention.


Her research concluded that menstruation plays a profound role in shaping womens self-perception and our ability to birth confidently. By redesignating menstruation as a spiritual phenomenon, women dismantled their menstrual shame, connected with their spirituality and birthed fearlessly.


Wow.

This is important knowledge and showcases the importance of connecting with your cycle before having children. Cycle charting is a great way to do just that.


What's involved in cycle charting?

Cycle charting is often done with a good old-fashioned pen and paper, although you can note it on your phone or computer if you have access and find it easier!

Each day you will write down your signs and symptoms, temperature, discharge and anything else of note. By doing this, you will begin to notice when your fertile window is, and common emotions, sleep cycles, tenderness and any other symptoms that correlate with particular phases of the cycle. You will gain insight into how your emotions, diet, exercise and stress truly impact your cycle, ovulation, pain and experience as a cyclical being!


What will you need?

  • A menstrual cycle chart (I have a free one available here)

  • A basal body thermometer

  • A pen

  • Somewhere nearby your bed to keep your cycle chart



A sneaky look at my free cycle chart, find it here . I have created a more comprehension cycle chart, including aspects of a woman's life I felt were left out of other charts I had used.



Three main checkpoints of cycle charting

  1. Basal body temperature This is best assessed when taken first thing in the morning, before any movement (so still in bed). Your temperature should stay consistent until ovulation (unless you are unwell, on certain medications or have disruptions in sleep). Once ovulation has occurred, you will notice an increase in temperature, by about 0.5 degrees Celcius. This will continue to stay up until your next bleed. Progesterone is the cause of increased heat in the body.

  2. Cervical mucous We have cervical discharge throughout our cycle that acts as a support for sperm or a barrier to sperm. Fertile mucous is described as egg-white or translucent and stretchy. Check out a photo of what fertile mucous may look like here. You will feel an external wet sensation on your vulva when you're in your fertile window. When assessing your discharge, try not to take it from toilet paper or underwear as this can disrupt the true viscosity of the mucous.

  3. Cervical position This can be a little harder to track as not everyone can feel their cervix, and for some, this can be a triggering practice (if you have pelvic inflammatory conditions or trauma). It is not required to track your cycle! Pre and post-ovulatory cervix: hard, low, shut and dry. Fertile cervix: soft, high, open, wet.


Beyond these 3 checkpoints, you can track your emotions, sexual desire, intimacy, breast tenderness, sleep, and fluid retention.... really, it can be as individualised to you as you want. However, I find these aspects more revealing of where you are in your cycle.


The seasons of the cycle

It is important to have knowledge of your cycle seasons so you can correlate your symptoms to the correct season.


A very brief rundown:

Menstruation/Winter

Is the first 5 to 7 days of your cycle where you bleed Follicular/Spring

This is technically from the beginning of your cycle up until ovulation, or from the day your bleed ends to the day you ovulate.

Ovulation/Summer

Can last from 24 to 35 hours, and is the fertile window of your cycle where conception can occur. Take note, that sperm can survive in the vagina for 3-5 days, so if you have unprotected sex a few days prior to ovulation, the risk of pregnancy is high.

Luteal/Autumn

The time from ovulation up until your next bleed.


If you want to learn more about the seasons in-depth, I have created an ebook from my maaaaaannnnyyy years of reading, researching and observing my own cycle. You can check it out here:

Live your cycle


Yep, even my partner now knows all about the cycle, and how to best support me in each season and finds it just as fascinating as I do! I'm sure if we have a daughter one day, she will be inspired and excited to reach her menarche.


By becoming empowered through your menstrual cycle, you begin to role model for other women, your daughters, sisters, mother, and the men in your life, how enjoyable being a cyclical being can be.



 

With a special interest in natural fertility, conscious conception and conscious relating through starting a family, I offer Birth Doula and related services to encourage more depth and awareness in your journey. I educate on the menstrual cycle and encourage women to reawaken their confidence and trust in their bodies, and show an understanding of how all of these experiences are interrelated and must be considered on your journey to starting a family.


To get in touch, email me at:


intuitivebirth@outlook.com or visit my social pages:







Find my FREE cycle chart here: