What is the one tool that every woman of reproductive age should use to monitor her overall health? Hint… it’s not an electronic device.
It’s tracking hormonal bio-markers with what we call Fertility Awareness Methods – or tracking your cycle. But wait. Don’t stop reading just because you saw the word ‘fertility’ and said to yourself, “I’m not trying to have a baby.” It’s not about that. That’s only part of it.
Your health comes first. Fertility is second. You have to be healthy as to conceive. I am a single woman, not trying to have a baby, and I chart simply for health purposes. Because you see, the bio-markers you learn to chart reveal so much about your overall health. Not just your reproductive health. Your hormones act as chemical messengers in your body that communicate with your organs.
As women our reproductive system is what makes us who we are at our core. Our biological clock. Think about it. We get a cycle every month if our system is working properly. Which means we have a constant change in hormones. every. single. month. I know. It can be a pain sometimes. But it shouldn’t have to be.
Health problems can first show up in our cycles. And because the body is made up of systems that work together— circulatory (blood flow), respiratory (breath), digestive (nutrients), endocrine (hormones), reproductive (procreation)— if your main hormones involved in the reproductive process, estrogen and progesterone are off, then other organs in your body will be affected as well. Not just your reproductive system.
Estrogen and progesterone are not limited to involvement in your reproductive cycle. They also play important roles in bone formation and maintenance, blood vessel dilation, flow, and relaxation, blood clotting, blood sugar levels, sodium, brain cell stimulation, anxiety (may be why mental health problems are higher in women than men), sleep, and relaxation. Woah, right? They never told you that in your health ed class in high school.
So learning how to track your hormonal bio-markers through charting can reveal hormone imbalances which could be impacting other health concerns in women like pain, acne, headaches, anxiety, fatigue, insomnia, weight gain, hirsutism, and mood changes. Charting can also help doctors who use fertility awareness in their practice to identify underlying conditions of hormonal imbalance such as ovulatory dysfunction, polycystic ovaries, endometriosis, thyroid problems, infertility, menopausal disorders, and depression. Things that your regular OBGYN was never able or willing to diagnose.
We want to know why our hormones are imbalanced and correct that issue… not just cover it up with a “one size fits all” pill that completely shuts down our reproductive system, which means our other systems will be affected. It’s already widely known that the birth control pill is associated with depression but if it is suppressing estrogen and progesterone production think of all the other processes and systems impacted I mentioned above that those hormones are involved in as well, like bone formation.
When I came off the pill I discovered I had nutrient deficiencies that I had to address before my acne would get any better. Charting my cycle taught me that I needed to eat better, rest more, learn how to manage stress, and exercise – it taught me how to care for and love myself as I am, acne and all. And also that there are vitamins and medication beyond the “pill” that can help naturally regulate and get to the root cause of hormone imbalances if you find the right doctor. By “charting,” I’m not talking about entering the days you bleed into a period tracker app, which predicts ovulation and your next period. There are other important details that need to be tracked. But taking a fertility awareness class and using an app or paper chart specific to a method like FEMM (free app) has helped me to greatly understand my health and hormones.
So this is why I believe every woman should learn to chart. We have no way of knowing if our cycles are normal or not if we only have our own to compare them to and were never taught. I encourage you to continue to seek answers and doctors trained in FEMM if you feel like concerns you bring up with your OBGYN are being brushed off or covered up and to take a class and learn how to chart. It will give you a visual of your health and can help determine if you need further treatment.
Would you like to learn more about how to chart hormonal biomarkers, and create your own personal health record? FEMM classes are a great way to start. Or do you have questions about your cycle or need support along your health journey? Send me a message and let’s chat.