This Period-Tracking Method Doesn’t Leave a Digital Paper Trail

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In response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Roe v. Wade overthrownmany people have used social media to encourage users to delete their period tracking applicationswith reference to digital privacy risks.

Period tracking applications are a useful way for people who are menstruating to track their cycles. And they can do so for a number of reasons. People monitor their cycle to get pregnant, not to get pregnant, to stay abreast of symptoms of medical conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome or endometriosis, or just to tell their doctor the first day of their last menstrual period when they asked.

The downside of these applications is that they cling to a lot of personal health information that can be used against the people who use the software. Data privacy concerns about period tracking applications is nothing new but now the consequences of a leak of your private period data is higherin an already highly guarded post-Roe world.

If you still want to track your period but want to avoid applications, what are your options? If you do not want to abandon programs completely, there are more privacy-friendly period tracking programs, such as Euki. The sexual health app says it does not collect or store any of your data in a cloud.

The other option is to trace your menstrual cycle with pen and paper. It may feel old-fashioned, but it’s the safest method. Here’s how to manually monitor your cycle:

Get a calendar

Any type of calendar will do. You can even buy a blank notebook and pull out your own calendar. I prefer a full-size notebook planner that is blank so that I can fill in the days and months manually. A larger planner also gives you more space to write extra notes such as symptoms and birth control information.

Hand to a date on a calendar in red ink

Once you have a calendar, you can record your current cycle or add previous cycle information for a more detailed record.

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If you want to use your phone, your device’s default calendar application offers the most privacy over a third-party calendar application. On the other hand, depending on how much you use your phone’s calendar application, adding cycle tracking information can be a bit confusing.

Record previous cycles if possible

Before deleting my period tracking application, I took screenshots of as much previous data as I could, such as cycle trend overviews and past months I recorded. This gave me a more stable place to start when I started tracking by hand.

If you do not have that information available, do not worry, you can simply start logging in when your next period starts.

What to write in your log

You can keep your calendar as basic or as detailed as you like, but more information can be helpful to learn more about your personal health, as well as to provide discussion points for you and your doctor at wellness examinations.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

Of course, you will want to mark the first day of your period, but you will also want to mark every day that you bloom. Also, try to see how heavy your flow is each day, what color the blood is, and whether you notice any clots.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the average menstrual bleeding lasts between two to seven days, so it is important to track how many days you typically bleed. This extra detail can help you understand what to expect each month, as well as detect abnormalities that you may share with your doctor. From the first day of one menstruation to the first day of your next menstruation is one menstrual cycle. Cycles can vary from person to person, but a cycle can last on average between 21 and 40 days.

Emotional symptoms
A lot happens every cycle with your hormones, which can have an impact on your moods. According to the UNC School of Medicine, a person may experience irritability, depression, anxiety and mood swings. These emotional shifts can also occur before your period, which can be used as an indication that the new cycle is about to begin. It is usually referred to as premenstrual syndrome, or PMS. Some people experience more severe emotional disorders known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD.

It can be helpful to rank your feelings on a scale of 1-10 to more easily spot patterns as well as inconsistencies.

PMS recorded on a calendar

If you are experiencing premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, make a note of how you feel and the severity in your calendar.

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Physical symptoms
Your cycle also affects your physical well-being in addition to your mood. These events are also important to write down. According to WebMD, hormone changes can cause physical symptoms such as cramps, chest tightness, acne breakouts, bloating, lower back pain, constipation or diarrhea and more.

Again, keeping track of your physical symptoms and arranging the severity on a scale can help you better understand what is normal for you and what is not.

Whether it is prescribed, over-the-counter or birth control, it is helpful to record any medication you take in your logbook. Medication (or missing a dose of medication) can affect your cycle, as well as your physical and emotional state.

If you are using a birth control regimen designed to prevent your period for a while, it is still important to look for bleeding and blemishes. If you miss a dose of birth control, it’s also worth writing down. In addition, the use of medications such as Plan B or the abortion pill will also be important to include in your logbook.

A bunch of ovulation tests

Whether you are trying to conceive or not, keeping up with when you ovulate can make a big difference. Most drug stores sell ovulation tests to help you find out.

Catherine McQueen / Getty Images

In a menstrual cycle, ovulation, when an egg is released from the ovary, moves down the fallopian tube and remains for up to 24 hours for possible fertilization. According to the Mayo Clinic, in an average cycle of 28 days, ovulation can occur 14 days before your next period, or six to seven days after your current period ends. However, this may differ.

Ovulation can be characterized by a slight increase in basal body temperature, changes in cervical mucus or vaginal discharge, as well as tenderness in the breast, bloating, mild cramps and more. If you are unsure, you can also buy ovulation kits at the store at home. These kits are designed to detect hormone surges. If you get a positive test, ovulation should occur about 36 hours later. Your ovulation window is generally your highest chance of conception.

Sexual activity
In addition to monitoring your ovulation, tracking your sexual activity can help you plan for a pregnancy, or better yet, avoid one. In addition, you can note whether sex is protected, as well as your latest screening results for sexually transmitted diseases. Knowing when you are ovulating can also help with planning sexual activity.

To put it all together

Your calendar or logbook will be unique to you – your lifestyle, eating habits, stress levels, cycle length, medication and more. Remember, it’s about what works best for you.

Here is an example calendar based on an average cycle of 28 days:

Example graph of tracking a cycle

This is an example of cycling tracking based on a 28-day cycle.

Shelby Brown / CNET

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider about any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.

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