September is PCOS Awareness Month and, as a condition that affects 1 out of every 20 women, we wanted to shed some light on the condition and why some women with PCOS may want to chart their cycle.
PCOS, or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, is a condition that is more strongly linked with androgen excess than the presence of polycystic ovaries. PCOS is diagnosed with a combination of excess androgens (hormones) and irregular or abnormal cycles. The root causes of PCOS vary from individual to individual, as do the symptoms.
How Can Charting Your Cycle and Tracking Ovulation Help Manage PCOS?
One of the symptoms of PCOS is irregular or abnormal menstrual cycles. Many women with PCOS either find out they have PCOS through their irregular cycles, or begin to notice them as a result of their diagnosis. A PCOS diagnosis is an opportunity to learn about your menstrual cycles and take charge of your hormonal health.
There are a few different ways you can track your cycle. You can use an app like Kindara (Android, iOS) or Ovuview (Android), or you can track on a paper chart. If you want to use fertility awareness to gain even more insight into your cycles, you will want something that allows you to track both basal body temperature and cervical fluid. Things you want to pay attention to when tracking with PCOS are:
- Cycle Length
- Regular ovulation (indicated by a combination of fertile cervical fluid and a sustained, raised basal body temperature)
- Any menstrual cycle symptoms, such as PMS, acne or painful periods, that can give you more information on your hormone balance
Tracking Health Changes
Our menstrual cycle is indicative of our overall health. With menstrual cycle tracking we can observe the impact of lifestyle and health changes on our menstrual cycle. There are several driving forces to PCOS and it is important to find out your own root cause of PCOS.
Exercising, managing stress, eating in a way that supports healthy hormones, reduces insulin resistance, maintains blood sugar balance, and lowers inflammation can be key in managing symptoms and regulating cycles with PCOS. Here are some things you can track in your menstrual cycle chart:
- Energy Level
- Sex Drive
- Food Sensitivities
Another thing to track is a return of a regular cycle. Over a longer period of time you will be able to observe your long-term cycle changes, and this can indicate that treatments or lifestyle changes are working. Charting your cycle is a wonderful way to track your progress.
Natural Birth Control
One mainstream treatment of PCOS includes a hormonal birth control prescription. While hormonal birth control may restore what seems like a regular menstrual cycle, the root cause of PCOS is left unchecked. Using the fertility awareness method (FAM) for birth control is an effective way to avoid pregnancy without the use of hormones, while allowing you to manage your PCOS naturally.
While it may take some learning to use FAM with PCOS, because of delayed ovulation, this can be eased by working with an instructor. Using FAM involves tracking your basal body temperature and your cervical fluid to identify your fertile time. Use Tempdrop to measure your basal body temperature, and you won’t have to wake up at the same time every day to get an accurate reading!
Irregular cycles that come with PCOS can be incredibly frustrating. Not knowing when you ovulate means that you won’t know when your period is meant to arrive. This is because delayed ovulation can make cycles incredibly long and unpredictable. Once you ovulate, your luteal phase is generally the same time for you each cycle. Your luteal phase is the time from ovulation until your next period. This means that once you ovulate, you will know approximately how long until your next period!
Tracking your cycle, especially when your cycles are irregular, will help give you some insights into what is going on and where you are exactly in a long cycle. The main reason for long and drawn out cycles is delayed ovulation. We generally don’t talk about ovulation outside of getting pregnant, but ovulating regularly is a sign of health. Tracking your cycle, including your cervical fluid and basal body temperature, will tell you if you are ovulating or not.
Maintaining Healthy Habits
Charting your cycle is a daily habit, just like flossing your teeth or drinking water. It eventually becomes a practice that reminds you to take care of your body, and prioritize your overall menstrual health. With a condition like PCOS, sticking with healthy habits is key. It can be hard to make these changes at first, but just like anything, eventually it becomes second nature. Charting your cycle can help you keep on track with lifestyle and health changes that are key to managing your PCOS.
Do you have any questions about managing PCOS and using FAM? Let’s hear them!
Nathalie Daudet is a social worker and FEMM instructor based in the centre of Winnipeg, Canada. She discovered fertility awareness after searching high and low for a non-hormonal method of birth control. After learning the magic of fertility awareness and the gift of body literacy, she decided to pursue formal fertility awareness training and share the knowledge of fertility awareness with women looking for a natural birth control option. Fertility Awareness Project is the hub for Nathalie’s FEMM classes in both group and individual formats, online and in person in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She can be reached at fertilityawarenessproject.ca. If you love this post and would like to thank Nathalie, shop Tempdrop with Nathalie's unique referral link.