How to track your menstrual cycle without an app

In the wake of US Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade upmany people have used social media to sound the alarm digital privacy risks and encourage users to do so delete their period tracking apps.

Period tracking apps are a helpful way for menstruators to track their cycles for a variety of reasons. People track their cycle to conceive, avoid pregnancy, keep track of symptoms of conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome or endometriosis, or simply to be able to tell their doctor the first day of their last period if asked.

The downside of these apps is that they store a lot of personal health information that could be used against you. Privacy concerns with period tracking apps are nothing new, but now the The consequences of leaking your private period data are higherin an already heavily monitored post-Roe world.

If you want to keep tracking your period but avoid apps, what are your options? If you don’t want to give up apps entirely, there are more privacy-friendly period tracking apps like Euki. The sexual health app says it doesn’t collect or store any of your data on any cloud.

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

Get a calendar

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

Hand circling a date on a calendar in red ink

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

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If you want to use your phone, your device’s default calendar app offers the most privacy compared to a third-party calendar app. On the other hand, depending on how often you use your phone’s calendar app, adding cycle tracking information can make things a bit cluttered.

If possible, log previous cycles

Before deleting my period tracking app, I took screenshots of as much past data as possible, like cycle trend summaries and past months, that I had logged. This gave me a more stable starting point when I started tracing by hand.

If you don’t have this information available, don’t worry, you can just start logging when your upcoming period starts.

What you write in your log

You can keep your calendar as simple or as detailed as you like, but additional information can be helpful in learning more about your personal health, as well as providing talking points for you and your doctor during wellness exams.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

bleeding
Of course, you should mark the first day of your period, but you should also mark every day that you bleed. Also, try to write down each day how fast your blood flow is, what color the blood is, and if you notice any clots.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the average menstrual bleeding lasts between two and seven days, so it’s important to track how many days you typically bleed. This additional detail can help you understand what to expect each month as well as spot any abnormalities to report to your doctor. From the first day of one period to the first day of your next period is a menstrual cycle. Cycles can vary from person to person, but on average a cycle can last anywhere from 21 to 40 days.

Emotional Symptoms
There is a lot going on with your hormones during each cycle that can affect your mood. According to the UNC School of Medicine, a person can experience irritability, depression, anxiety, and mood swings. These emotional changes can also occur before your period, which can be used as an indicator that the new cycle is about to start. This is most commonly 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 rate your feelings on a scale of 1 to 10 to help identify patterns and inconsistencies.

PMS noted on a calendar

If you suffer from premenstrual syndrome or PMS, note your feelings and their severity on your calendar.

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physical symptoms
In addition to your mood, your cycle also influences your physical well-being. It is also important to write down these events. According to WebMD, hormone changes can cause physical symptoms like cramping, breast tenderness, acne breakouts, bloating, back pain, constipation or diarrhea, and more.

Again, keeping track of your physical symptoms and rating their severity on a scale can help you better understand what’s normal for you and what’s not.

medication
Whether prescribed, over-the-counter, or for birth control, it’s helpful to write down all the medications you take in your log. Medications (or missing a dose of medication) can affect your cycle, physical state, and emotional state.

If you’re using birth control designed to prevent your period for a while, it’s still important to watch for bleeding and spotting. If you miss a dose of birth control, it’s also worth writing that down. In addition, it would be important to include medications such as Plan B or the abortion pill in your protocol.

A bunch of ovulation tests

Whether you’re trying to conceive or not, tracking when you ovulate can make a world of difference. Most drug stores sell ovulation tests to help you figure this out.

Catherine McQueen/Getty Images

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

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

sexual activity
In addition to monitoring your ovulation, tracking your sexual activity can help you plan, or better yet avoid, a pregnancy. You can also note whether sex was protected and your most recent STD screening results. Knowing when you’re ovulating can also help you plan for sexual activity.

Put everything together

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

Here is an example calendar based on an average 28 day cycle:

Sample chart for tracking a cycle

This is an example bike 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 healthcare provider with any questions about a medical condition or health goals.

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