Expert Reviewed

How to Track Your Menstrual Cycle

Learning how to track your menstrual cycle can be important for many reasons. You will learn your natural "rhythm." The start of your period won't come as a surprise every month. You will know your approximate fertility (the days that you can most likely become pregnant). You will also get to know your natural emotional and physical fluctuations.

Method One of Three:
Monitoring Your Cycle

  1. 1
    Note of the first day of your period. The first day of your period is the day that you actually start to bleed. Your menstrual cycle runs from the first day of your period to the first day of your next period. The length of a menstrual cycle is different for each woman, but a typical cycle is between 21 and 35 days. Bleeding usually lasts for two to seven days.[1]
    • Count the number of days between your periods and the number of days that you bleed.
    • If you have started your period within the last two years, your cycle may be longer. Your cycle should become shorter and more regular the older you get. The length will also change when you are in perimenopause or close to menopause.
    • The frequency and length of your menstrual cycle may also be altered by taking some forms of contraception (e.g. extended-cycle birth control pills).
    • You typically ovulate between day 11 and day 21 of your cycle. This is the time of your cycle when you are most fertile and most likely to become pregnant if you have sex.[2]
  2. 2
    Keep track of your physical symptoms. Record the heaviness of your flow and any pain that you experience. Try to be as detailed as possible. In addition to keeping track of your physical symptoms, note the day of your cycle that you are experiencing them. For example, do you experience cramping a few days before your period starts?[3]
    • How many pads or tampons did you use?
    • Are you experiencing cramps? Are the cramps in your lower abdomen and/or your lower back?
    • Are you experiencing any breast tenderness?
    • How does your vaginal discharge change throughout your cycle?
    • Do you experience diarrhea or loose stools during your period? (This is a common symptom.)
  3. 3
    Pay attention to your emotions. Many women experience emotional changes as their hormones fluctuate. You may experience anxiety, a depressed mood, mood swings, irritability, appetite changes, or crying spells. These symptoms typically occur before your period starts. Write down the day in your cycle that you experience any of these symptoms.[4]
    • Also note any other sources of stress that may be affecting your mood. This can help you determine if you are feeling anxious because your period is on the way or if your are anxious because of a project at work or school.
    • If these symptoms appear around the same time each month, they are likely related to your cycle.
  4. 4
    Repeat this process every month. Track your cycle for a few months in a row to get an idea of what is normal for your body. You should begin to notice trends and similar physical and emotional symptoms each month. Note any changes that happen from month to month.
    • Some variation is normal. You may bleed for five days one month and three days the next.
    • What is normal for you may not be normal for someone else.[5] Do not worry if your cycle is different than other women you know. Look for consistency within your own cycle.
    • Keep in mind that if you are taking birth control pills, using a hormonal IUD, an implant, patch, or shots, then you will probably have a lighter period than when you did not take the birth control, but this is normal.

Method Two of Three:
Using Different Tracking Devices

  1. 1
    Mark the days on a calendar. If you would like to track your period the old-fashioned way, obtain a calendar and mark the days with pencil, pen, marker, or highlighter. You may use different colors, symbols, or stickers to mark the beginning and end of your cycle, the length of your period, or the days you experience physical or emotional symptoms. Create a system that is clear and works for you.
    • If you do not want to overload your calendar with too much information, you can keep a separate journal for your physical and emotional symptoms and only use the calendar to mark the beginning and end of your cycle and period.
    • If you don't use a calendar often, keep your calendar in a place you will remember it. Hanging the calendar in your bathroom or placing it next to a mirror may be helpful
    • If you are a very private individual and don't like your period info out for the world to see, use a very discrete mark (e.g. an "x," circle, or color) signifying the event to you.
  2. 2
    Download an app on your phone. Instead of using pen and paper, you can use an app to track your period. These apps can keep all of your information at your fingertips and predict when your period will occur. In addition to having a calendar, many of these apps allow you to record physical and emotional changes that take place throughout your cycle.[6]
    • Clue is a free app for iPhone and Android phones and is one of the most recommended apps. It allows you to record physical and emotional symptoms, the days you have sex, and create reminders to take your birth control pills. After entering a few months of data, the app will use algorithms to predict when your next period starts and when you are expected to ovulate.
    • Period Tracker Lite is another free recommended period tracking app. This app allows you to use icons to describe your moods instead of typing out your symptoms. It is available for both iPhone and Android phones.
  3. 3
    Use an online calendar. If paper and pen or apps do not appeal to you, you can use an online tracker. These websites allow you to enter all of your cycle information and often have tools such as calendars, history reports, and reminders. Some of these websites also provide links to information about menstrual cycles.[7]
    • If internet access is an issue for you, you may not want rely on an online period tracker.
    • Many of the sanitary product makers (e.g. Tampax, Always, etc.) have online tackers available through their websites.

Method Three of Three:
Dealing with Period Problems

  1. 1
    Make adjustments based on your tracking information. You can use the information you have been tracking to make your life a little easier when you experience symptoms. If you know the days that you have cramps, the days that you are more irritable, or when your period is coming, you can adjust your life so that your cycle does not interfere.
    • For example, if you know that you become bloated three days before your period, you can make sure that you avoid caffeine, salt and alcohol and drink plenty of water during this time period.[8]
    • If you know that you are irritable during a certain time of your cycle, focus on getting enough sleep and practice some relaxation techniques so your irritability does not get the best of you.
  2. 2
    Manage an irregular period. Up to 14% of women have irregular menstrual cycles.[9] If your period arrives early or late, if you have excessive bleeding or barely bleed, or experience severe pain, you may have an irregular period. An irregular period should be easy to identify if you have been tracking your cycle.
    • Your period may be irregular for many reasons such as the contraception you use, polycystic ovary syndrome, stress, thyroid disorders,[10] eating disorders, uncontrolled diabetes, fibroids, or endometriosis.[11]
    • There are many treatments available for irregular periods.[12]
  3. 3
    Know when to see a doctor. Menstrual irregularities are common. If you notice any changes or have some questions, see your health care provider. Take all of the information that you have been tracking with you. This can help your health care provider figure out what is going on with your body. You should always see a professional if you experience any of the following:[13]
    • You bleed for more than seven days.
    • You are bleeding in between your periods.
    • Your periods are less than 21 days apart or more than 35 days apart.
    • Your periods went from being regular to being irregular.
    • You soak through more than one tampon or pad every hour or two.
    • Your periods become very heavy or painful.

Community Q&A

Add New Question
  • Is it normal for the cramps to stop?
    Answered by Carrie Noriega, M.D.
    • Some women will have cramps with their menstrual bleeding while others will never have a single cramp their entire life. Each period can also be different for women with some months having no cramps and other months having a lot of cramping. This is all considered normal. When you should see a doctor is if you start having severe cramps with every period that make it so you can't do your regular activities or if you start having very heavy bleeding.
    Thanks! 6 2
  • My period averages seven days. How many days after my period will I ovulate?
    Answered by Carrie Noriega, M.D.
    • The timing of ovulation is related to the length of your entire cycle and not just to the length of bleeding. You usually ovulate 14 days before you start your period. This means that if your cycle is 30 days from the first day you start bleeding to the day before you start your next period then you will ovulate on the 16th day of your cycle or 16 days after the first day you start bleeding. Someone who has a 29 day cycle will ovulate on the 15th day from the first day you start bleeding, etc.
    Thanks! 4 2
  • If I have a brown discharge for two days before I start to bleed, do I count those?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • No, you don't count those as part of your period.
    Thanks! 4 0
  • I've only gotten brown discharge this cycle -- what's wrong with me?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • Generally, the brown discharge is just old blood left over from a previous period. If you still feel uneasy about it, talk to your doctor.
    Thanks! 12 5
  • When can I expect my next period - how long after this one?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • It generally is 28 days, starting from the day you get your period. For example, you get your period on the 7th; that's day 1. The 8th is day 2. Just count until you get to the 28th day, and that day should be the day you get it.
    Thanks! 7 2
  • What if my period is late?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • It does take about two years for your menstrual cycle to stabilize, so you shouldn't worry if you are young. If you are older, I would suggest consulting a doctor.
    Thanks! 7 2
  • I have tried to track my period but to no avail. What else can I do?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • If you are still a teen, don't worry. Your period may be irregular for several cycles after you begin. If you're afraid something is wrong, see a doctor.
    Thanks! 8 4
  • Can I get my period while pregnant?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • Since the cause of the period every month is your uterus shedding its lining (of blood), you won't get your period while pregnant. You may experience some minor spotting. This is normal, but tell your doctor if you do. Your period will restart a couple of months after you give birth.
    Thanks! 2 0
  • I've been cramping lately, but I have not gotten my first period yet. Is this a sign?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    Thanks! 1 0
  • What should I do if I'm scared I might be pregnant?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • Take a pregnancy test. They have them in most drug stores (CVS, Rite Aid, etc.) and even sell them at the dollar store. They are very easy to use--you simply urinate on them and they detect a hormone if you are pregnant.
    Thanks! 1 0
Show more answers
Ask a Question
200 characters left
Include your email address to get a message when this question is answered.


  • If you are keeping track of the length of your period, be sure to mark the beginning and end days differently. Or just draw an arrow from the first day to the last so you don't get your days mixed up.
    0 Helpful?  0
  • Tracking your cycle can be very helpful to your relationships. Your significant other can also see when you are at your most sensitive and also your most fertile/infertile. You will also be able to tell if something is really bothering you, or if your hormones are making you more sensitive.
    0 Helpful?  0

Expert Review By:

Obstetrician & Gynecologist

This version of How to Track Your Menstrual Cycle was reviewed by Carrie Noriega, M.D. on October 7, 2016.

3 votes - 100%
Co-authors: 25
Views: 217,670
Categories: Menstrual Cycles

Reader Success Stories

  • AJ

    Annie Jensen

    Sep 5, 2017

    "I finally understand how to track it and it makes me feel so proud. This article really helps to explain the key points."..." more
    Rated this article:
  • ZP

    Zilaviya Pentagoz

    Aug 20, 2016

    "Everything. I just started my period and I was scared till I read this article."
  • A


    Jan 10

    "I finally understand how to track my menstrual cycle. Thank you so much."
  • MT

    Mariessa Tetteh

    Jan 12, 2017

    "I have learned many things that will help me in the near future."
  • A


    Aug 12, 2016

    "Full of information and well explained."
  • A


    Aug 31, 2016

    "It worked for me, yeah."
Share your story

Did this article help you?