Charting your fertility cycle isn’t just about family planning.

Before learning how to chart, my knowledge of my menstrual cycle was relatively narrow. I knew that I had a period around the same time every month and that I would usually desperately crave chocolate and get crabby a few days before it started.

I first got the idea to track my menstrual cycle as a freshman in college. A club I was involved in at my all-women’s college welcomed Suzy Younger, a local FertilityCare practitioner to campus to give a presentation on the Creighton Model of charting. Younger explained how a woman’s cycle has fertile days and non-fertile days, how to spot signs for ovulation, and how you can tell where your body is at in the menstrual cycle by simply observing your cervical mucus. In her presentation, I learned all about how my body worked and how much more complex my fertility was than just having a period every month.

I realized that my fertility wouldn’t suddenly become relevant when I finally found Mr. Right. My fertility health was relevant to me right now. Here’s why being single is actually the perfect time to start charting your menstrual cycle.

For Your Overall Health

A woman’s menstrual cycle involves far more than her reproductive system. Fertility Education & Medical Management notes, “For instance, when your body makes reproductive hormones, like estrogen, it requires support from your adrenal glands and your thyroid. When your body breaks down reproductive hormones, it depends on your liver and gallbladder.”

Because the production of estrogen and the breakdown of hormones involves so many other systems in the body, being in tune with your reproductive health helps you gauge the health of the rest of your body. Charting allows you to know what is normal for your body and will help you recognize when something is amiss with your cycle. Your charts can help detect early signs of health problems, like thyroid cancer, hormonal imbalances, nutritional deficiencies, and gynecological cancers. Also, many women don’t notice any signs of infertility until trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant. Charting can help you detect early signs of infertility and address the underlying issues before you’re actively trying to conceive.

To Understand and Appreciate Your Body

For a long time I had no clue what was going on with my body each month. Learning modern, scientifically-researched fertility awareness based methods is the comprehensive fertility education I think all women need. OB-GYN Dr. Marguerite Duane echoes this sentiment, “I am a firm believer that all girls should learn to chart at 12 or 13 years old. As soon as puberty starts, girls need to know how to chart, not from a family planning but a health aspect.”

By understanding her fertility, a woman can come to truly appreciate and take care of her health. Younger, the certified Fertility Care practitioner who taught me to chart, says the single girl should start charting her menstrual cycle because it “helps her understand herself in a deeper way: physically, emotionally, and spiritually.”

Dr. Duane says, “Society has convinced women that anything that comes out down there is a problem. Fertility is not a disease.” If we are better able to understand how our bodies work, we can come to appreciate how amazing they are.

For Self-Empowerment

Going through puberty, I was so embarrassed of having my period, even though it’s a normal function of my body. And simply counting the days between cycles was never really helpful for me to plan for my period—it was like a horrible surprise every month. But when I learned to chart, I suddenly felt like I had some sense of control. I knew when to expect my period, I knew what was going on during the off days, and I knew when I was PMS-ing.

If a woman knows that she has painful periods, charting allows her to be aware of when she is going to start so that she can take anti-inflammatory medication three or four days ahead of time in preparation. Or if you and your girlfriends are planning a trip to the lake, and you don’t want to go when it is “that time of the month,” you can look to your chart to anticipate when you’ll be on your period and plan around it.

There are so many reasons beyond family planning why a woman should chart. Our fertility health is a window to our physical, mental, and emotional health. Knowing how your fertility works can give you the power and the confidence to trust your body and use its signs to help you make the best decisions for your well-being.

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