A period calendar is a great way to keep track of your menstrual cycle, ovulation, and the side effects of your period. The simplest period calendar is just that; you write down your period every month and eventually can determine your cycle and predict when your period will be (usually within a day or so, depending on how regular you are).

Start by marking the first day of your period as day one and keep count from there. A standard cycle is 28 days with ovulation occurring on about day 14. As you keep track, you may find that your cycle is shorter or longer. While most women have a cycle close to 28 days, it’s not uncommon to have a much longer cycle. You may also find that yours is not regular, meaning it varies in length from month to month. Many things, especially stress, can change your monthly cycle, but many women naturally have irregular cycles, especially when they first start menstruating.

Tracking your monthly cycle will not only help you know your period is coming ahead of time, it can also help you when it comes to birth control. If you make some additions to your calendar, like pelvic discomfort and discharge, you can accurately predict when you’re going to be ovulating. That means you can use extra protection or abstain from sex during that time of the month.

This method, called the timing method, is not very effective in preventing pregnancy, but many times that is because it is not used properly. You must use extra protection or abstain from sex before and during your monthly ovulation. This method also isn’t effective if your cycle isn’t regular.

While many people use the period calendar to prevent pregnancy, it is also commonly used by those trying to get pregnant. By knowing when you’re going to ovulate, you can time your most fertile window more accurately. In this case, you may also want to use your calendar to track your core body temperature. Just like with preventing pregnancy, this is not as effective if your cycle is not regular. If you have trouble getting pregnant while using this method, you may find it helpful to purchase fertility monitors.

Besides being able to predict your period and ovulation, a period calendar can also help you track the undesired side effects of your period like premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or the more serious disorder premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). By tracking things like physical discomfort or pain, mood swings, anxiety, and other physical and emotional conditions, you may be able to identify one of these problems. With your help, your doctor can accurately identify and treat your specific problem.

By keeping a period calendar, you can not only be prepared for your period ahead of time, you can also start to take control of your cycle and everything associated with it.

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