Helping her chart her cycle

Monthly cycle calendar - menstrual calendar

There's a lot of ground to cover when talking to your daughter about puberty and, more specifically, getting her period. Some of it is technical and biological – what it is, why it happens and how; some of it is heartfelt and reassuring – 'you are normal' and 'you can always come and talk to me'; and some of it is just important practical information. Keeping track of your period by charting it on a calendar is the 'sensible practice' type of info that will help your daughter in the short and long run.
Here's a quick factsheet aimed at helping you explain the 'hows' and 'whys' of charting your cycle. Below you'll find useful topics and practical information which you can use as a loose 'script' or just as a conversation starter. Click here for even more information on charting your cycle and for a menstrual cycle calendar.

Borig but useful - charting the phases of menstruation

Changing hormone levels in your menstrual cycle bring a variety of bodily changes each month. There are changes in vaginal discharge, increases and decreases in body temperature, abdominal twinges and sometimes even pain. Charting your menstrual cycle over time will allow you to predict your menstrual periods, note changes in your body and track possible premenstrual symptoms. Charting the cycle also gives you more control over your reproductive health and allows you to appreciate your own unique bodily rhythms.
Keeping track of the monthly cycle is simple, but you do need to do it properly. Be sure to note the first day of your period. Also consider charting episodes of cramps, spotting or any other important symptoms. Pretty soon, a cyclical pattern may emerge and you may be able to relate certain symptoms to your menstrual cycle.

Why you want to chart

When you visit your doctor, they will ask, among other things, 'When was your last period?' By charting your cycle, communication with your doctor will be easier because you will be prepared to answer their questions. Some of the questions that your doctor may ask are listed below. These questions should be considered when charting your cycle.

How many days do you menstruate?

Mark down the days of your period on a calendar. The first day of your period is also Day One of your menstrual cycle. If you begin to chart your cycle each month, you'll see a pattern. A normal cycle is 21 to 35 days, but it can be longer or shorter.

What is your menstrual flow like?

If you've been menstruating for a while, you know what your menstrual flow should look like. With this in mind, you'll want to keep track of light or heavy bleeding and any changes in colour and texture such as blood clots. You should report anything unusual – in terms of length of your period, amount of flow or the way it looks – to your doctor.

What other symptoms are apparent during your cycle?

You will also want to note any unusual vaginal secretions that occur during the month. You may very well notice a clear or white secretion at mid-cycle – this is an indication that you are ovulating. As always, if anything abnormal appears, it is best to call your doctor right away.
Another good reason to chart your cycle is that you generally don't want to visit the gynaecologist when you are menstruating. Certain tests, like Pap smears, must be done when you're not bleeding, so it's important to know where you are in your cycle. The following symptoms or changes may also provide some important information for you and your doctor and should be noted when charting your cycle:

  • Variations in length of your period
  • Timing or amount of menstrual blood, such as spotting
  • Any change in vaginal secretions regarding colour and amount, particularly if it's associated with itching or odour
  • Vaginal lubrication problems
  • Any pelvic pain, whether or not it is related to menstruation
  • Depression, mood swings and irritability that may be related to your menstrual cycle.