“I believe that every woman should be body literate,” says Nicole Jardim, certified women's health coach and creator of Fix Your Period, a series of programs that empower young women to reclaim their hormonal health. “They should have a comprehensive understanding of how their body works so that they can take ownership of their health.”
One of the easiest ways to cultivate body awareness is to chart the signs and symptoms of your menstrual cycle each month using a period tracking app like Kindara, Ovatemp, Glow, or Clue. Paying attention to your body's cues will facilitate a deeper awareness of how it functions.
Jardim recommends tracking your cervical fluid changes, especially the transition from a drier fluid to a wetter, more slippery consistency as you near ovulation, and then back to a drier, stickier texture after ovulation is over. This is a telltale sign that you're ovulating each month.
She also suggests paying attention to other physical symptoms like your skin (do you break out at certain times of the month?), as well as your breasts (do you feel pain or lumps at any time during the month?). And finally, be aware of your emotions (when do you feel happy, sad, irritable, or anxious throughout the month?). Once you start tracking these physical and emotional symptoms, you'll likely notice a pattern and correlation to your cycle.
"Once you have a comprehensive understanding of exactly how your unique body and menstrual cycle work, you can track your fertility and see irregularities in your menstrual cycle or cervical fluid long before a doctor would ever pick up on it," Jardim says. "When you know what's normal for you, you can determine if you have hormonal imbalances, vaginal infections, and even cervical dysplasia much earlier."
See also Go With Your Flow: A Period Practice for Teens