Women’s Empowering Self Knowledge of Menstrual Cycles—one Diary entry a day
CeMCOR has created and posted electronically completable PDFs for the series of daily Menstrual Cycle, Perimenopause and Menopause diary tools that have been available as free downloadable PDFs on the CeMCOR website since 2003 https://www.cemcor.ca/type/diary. Much as COVID-19 forced all of us to use more forms of virtual communication, so it taught the UBC Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research (CeMCOR) that women will not keep paper records. In 2021, women are noting what they want to record and remember on a tablet, phone or smart watch! Dhani Kalidasan, CeMCOR coordinator, said that recently women participating in the Menstruation and Ovulation Study 2 were creating their own Excel spreadsheets rather than completing the paper Diary CeMCOR provided!
Why does CeMCOR encourage and share the self-tracking Diary tools? For many reasons. First of all, for centuries women’s experiences have either been ignored or described by “experts” in ways that decrease women’s power and inhibit women’s self-knowledge. Second, CeMCOR’s mission includes, “To perform studies, analyze data, publish and teach about the science of menstrual cycle and ovulation physiology and the expressions of these in women’s experiences.” When we see for ourselves the interactions of positive and negative menstrual cycle-related experiences with our daily lives we start to feel empowered to advocate for ourselves, “to speak our own truth” according to Dr. Jerilynn C. Prior, Professor of Endocrinology.
Prior designed the original Menstrual Cycle Diary© in the early 1980s to capture the whole range of positive and negative experiences for menstruating women. She was sick of PMS tools with 57 or 100 negative symptoms that implied women were sick. So, the Diaries include “feelings of self-worth, energy and interest in sex” not just “frustration, depression and anxiety”.
The most important, scientific reason for Diary records is to provide accurate descriptions of the full range of and over-time women’s experiences. Therefore, this tool was used with healthy, normally menstruating and ovulating women ages 20-41 in a 1-year study of cycles, exercise and bone density change published in the New England J. Medicine in 1990. The data from 53 women with complete Diary and ovulation data over an average of 13 cycles are currently being analyzed by CeMCOR in collaboration with UBC medical students. They provide otherwise unavailable information. The most recent is that women’s interest in sex is strongly related to feelings of energy and self-worth but doesn’t increase related to midcycle hormones https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/23293691.2021.1901519.
The Daily Perimenopause Diary© and the Daily Menopause Diary© have also been used to assess changes in response to progesterone or placebo in randomized controlled treatment trials for hot flushes and night sweats https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22453200/. The Daily Perimenopause Diary allowed CeMCOR researchers to show that midlife women with regular cycles and night sweats had cyclic night sweats and breast tenderness that clustered around menstruation https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12841883/.