What is a period diary?

Samantha Wild
Clinical Lead for Women's Health and Bupa GP
21 June 2022
Next review due June 2025

Having periods can sometimes cause pain, and other symptoms such as bloating or headaches. These symptoms don’t always come during your period itself. Keeping a period diary can be a helpful way to find out about what might be causing any issues. Here I discuss what the benefits of a period diary are, and how to keep one.

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Why should I keep a period diary?

You might have noticed that you feel different at each stage of the menstrual month. Keeping a period diary can help you to record any changes. This means you or your doctor may be able to see patterns between your symptoms and your menstrual cycle. For example, if you have pelvic pain, low mood, and headaches before your period each month, you might have premenstrual tension. If you do, you can take steps to improve or manage this. Here are some other ways that a period diary can help you.

1. Plan your exercise routine

Your hormones change throughout the month, and this can affect how you feel. Knowing where you are in your cycle it can help you to plan how intensely to exercise. For example, if you often have pain and fatigue during your period, try walking or yoga instead of running or aerobics.

2. Know when you ovulate

If you are planning a pregnancy, it can be useful to know when you ovulate (release an egg) each month. By recording your cycle, it can help you to predict when this might happen – as you tend to ovulate around two weeks before your period. But this is not always the case, so it can help to use an ovulation test around this time too.

If you are trying to prevent getting pregnant it is not enough to just avoid having unprotected sex during ovulation. It is still possible to get pregnant outside of this time. So do continue to use other reliable birth control methods, such as contraceptive pills or condoms.

3. Identify a possible health issue

Sometimes it can be hard to tell if your symptoms are normal, or if they are caused by another condition, such as endometriosis or PCOS. Keeping track of when your symptoms occur, as well as how severe they are can help. You can then show your period diary to your GP, who can help you to find out the cause of any problems.

How to keep a period diary

You can choose to use either a period tracking app, or a physical diary to track your symptoms. Either way, these work in a similar way. You will be able to note down your symptoms each day of the month as they occur. You may record things such as your energy levels and your pain score, as well as any mood changes such as anxiety or low mood.

You will also usually have a chance to record how heavy your flow is during your period. This can help you to see if you are having heavier than normal periods, and if they are linked to an increase in pain levels. You could try keeping your period diary somewhere handy, such as beside your bed. This will help to remind you to use it regularly.

If you become worried about any changes in symptoms, increased pain or heavy bleeding, see your GP. They can help you to manage your symptoms.

Bupa's period and symptom tracker (PDF, 1.4MB), can help you record and track your symptoms. Click on the image below to download the PDF.

Bupa's period and symptom tracker

If you have heavy, painful, or irregular periods, you’ll know just how disruptive they can be, both physically and mentally. With our Period Plan, you don’t have to face these problems alone.

Samantha Wild
Dr Samantha Wild
Clinical Lead for Women's Health and Bupa GP

    • M, Bernardi, L, Lazzeri, F, Perelli et al. Dysmenorrhea and related disorders. F1000 Res, 2017;16:1645.  doi: 10.12688/f1000research.11682.1
    • What is PMS? National association for premenstrual symptoms., accessed 9 June 2022
    • How your energy levels change during your menstrual cycle. Lloyds Pharmacist. www., reviewed 2 March 2022
    • S, Johnson, J, Stanford, G, Warren et al. Increased likelihood of pregnancy using an app connected ovulation test system. J Women’s health, 2020; 29(1): 84-89. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2019.7850
    • Menstrual cycles and ovulation. Clearblue., updated 2 May 2022
    • Wilcox, D, Dunson and D, Baird. The timing of the fertile window in the menstrual cycle : day specific estimates from a prospective study. BMJ, 2000; 321: 1259-1262. doi: 10.1136/bmj.321.7271.1259
    • Dr Samantha Wild, Bupa GP – personal reference

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