Blood, Tears, and More Blood: My Journey to Charting my Menstrual Cycle

I announced last Friday that I was considering doing a post regarding cycles and charting. Then I found out that this week is national NFP awareness week (which is pretty awesome in and of itself). It also turns out that there’s a linkup over at NFP and Me for the occasion. So apparently, somebody up there wants me to write this post. And here I am.

I want to start off with a warning. If the title of the post hasn’t scared you off, here’s a heads-up. This is going to get personal. And maybe a little gross. So don’t say I didn’t warn you. Also, if this topic makes you uncomfortable feel free to move on. It’s really ok. You won’t offend me. Be warned that in this and other posts like it I might use words such as period, menstruation, ovulation, ovaries, luteal phase, uterus, libido, cervical mucus, sex, menstrual cycle, pads, and blood.

Whew! Got through it!

For anyone who’s still with me, here’s my story and why I plan to start charting my cycles.

charting with thermometer

I’m single. I’m not dating. I don’t plan on being sexually active until after marriage. I may, in fact, never get married. So why the heck do I want to start charting my cycles like those awesome people who use NFP do?

Towards the beginning of this summer, after I had just finished my freshman year of college, I had a conversation with my mom about my desire to chart. I had already begun taking note of when my period happened and now wanted to get more in depth. I had noticed that my cycles didn’t seem to follow the rules. One month it was 33 days long, another it was 39, the next month 28.

When I was younger I never paid much attention to my period. It was something that just “happened” every few weeks. My understanding was that it should be every 28 days. Even so, I generally didn’t bother to make sure that was when it was happening. Usually, I would think something to the effect of “well, I got it around the 20th last month, so it should come about then this month”. Besides being bad math, this method didn’t account for the fact that my cycle might be longer or shorter than 28 days (not every women’s cycle is the same). Using this method, I remember having what I considered late periods every now and then.

The sad thing is, I really didn’t know much. I could offer a number of excuses but the hard fact is I was never taught much about my fertility or cycles. All I knew from my mom came from one conversation about how the lining of my uterus (which she said nourished a baby when a woman was pregnant) would build up and then shed once a month. And I would bleed.

For the first few months after I got my period I kept track. And I distinctly remember, just a few months later, having one period follow on another within 2 weeks. I freaked out. What did this mean? It was my 5th period. Did that mean my fifth pregnancy would be a miscarriage? These were the thoughts that passed through my 12 year old brain. I wish I had understood that irregular and anovulatory periods weren’t that unusual for a girl who was just starting.

Anyways, after a few months more I wasn’t really keeping track of my cycles and had moved on to my “once a month” bad math. And I let it be that way for years. Eventually, I started reading pro-life news, learned more about how my body works, stumbled across the awesome NFP website 1Flesh and got more interested. At this time I headed off to college.

At school, I made some great girlfriends and we talked about NFP and charting. I came to realize that I should be keeping better track of my body and listening to what it was telling me. I knew by this point that I was seeing a connection between my mood and my cycle. I would often get really high-strung and anxious before my period. I also learned that brown spotting at the end of a period , which is something I had seen in myself,could be a bad sign. Eventually, I came around to my current decision to go all out with charting.

There’s a number of reasons I guess.

1) to know my body better and be empowered with that knowledge

2) to make sure there’s nothing wrong (my irregular cycles as well as brown flow might be cause for concern)

3) to monitor the correlation between the different parts of my cycle and my mood

4)–last but not least–to know when my period is coming

I’ve already signed up for a few different free online charting sites (I’ll see which one I prefer) and have done a little charting. I’ll hopefully be starting all the official monitoring, including temperature taking, soon. It’s actually kind of exciting. Hopefully I’ll be posting more about my adventures in charting in the weeks and months ahead. Would you be interested in joining me as I learn more about cycle charting and myself? Let me know what you think in the comments section below!

This post is linked up to the NFP and Me NFP week link up. Check it out for NFP-related posts from other bloggers.

A little disclaimer: I am only starting to chart and I am not using those charts as a form of NFP. If you are interested in that you should speak with an NFP teacher or practitioner. I’m not an expert.

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6 thoughts on “Blood, Tears, and More Blood: My Journey to Charting my Menstrual Cycle

  1. Do it!! I started charting long before I was engaged and encourage any woman who has any interest in it to do so. It gives you SUCH a leg up when do need it for family planning and unearths so much wisdom about your health. I’ve been using sympto-thermal for about a year and a half and just switched to Billings. I’ll still do temp checks but I wanted a method that when I DO eventually have little ones, I won’t necessarily have to temp.

    I wish you the best of luck charting and I love hearing about single women who have decided to do it!

    • Thanks for the encouragement! I’m looking forward to charting and know that I’ll get so many benefits! I also want to thank you for writing about your experience with charting. I’ve read some of your posts and they’ve helped me to make this decision. It was great to read about a woman who charted even when she was single and who was so positive about it.

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