Keeping a contraception journal — and otherwise tracking your birth control use — can be a great way to understand your body better. But it’s important to do so in a way that doesn’t put your privacy at risk.
A “contraception journal” is a broad term used for any organizational tool that allows you to track information about your sexual, as well as overall, health and well-being, says general practitioner Adiele Hoffman, medical advisor at Flo Health, United Kingdom.
While the term “journal” implies a paper-bound dairy, there are many ways to track your birth control use. Some people prefer to use a physical notebook or notepad, while others prefer to use these features on their phones.
There’s also a wide variety of apps designed to track your period, ovulation, or sexual activity, as well as apps that offer that as a secondary or tertiary feature.
They usually can be programmed to remind you to log information into them, which helps increase your likelihood of tracking regularly and accurately, Northcutt explains.
If you aren’t sure where to start, it might be helpful to narrow down your focus.
What will you actually use?
For example, a contraception diary with prompts and cute charts may be great in theory.
But if you don’t carve out time to add to it, it won’t offer the same benefits as a less-involved option you remember to use.
What are you hoping to get out of tracking?
If you’re considering a contraception journal to help avoid accidental stains, you’ll need to keep track of your menstrual cycle.
What level of privacy do you need?
“Following the reversal of Roe v. Wade and the events of 2022, your privacy and security around reproductive data are of utmost importance,” explains Hoffman.
Typically, when people talk about security and contraception tracking, they’re talking about apps.
But the sentiment stands for paper journals, too — especially if you live with someone who could use the information in your contraceptive journal against you.
Different goals necessitate tracking different variables. Ahead, info on what you might choose to track, when, and why.
When did your last period start? How long did it last? Write it down!
Many people find it helpful to track when they have partnered sex — particularly sex that may result in pregnancy.
“For example, if you miss pills, it could help you decide whether you need to take emergency contraception or not,” says Hoffman.
You might also want to track sexual activity involving:
- libido or sexual desire
- speed or frequency of orgasm
- barrier methods used
This information can help you identify potential connections between your libido and overall cycle and even help you decide whether you need to get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Tracking your basal body temperature first thing every single morning can help you predict when you’re going to ovulate, says Northcutt.
This can help you decide what kind of sex you want to have, as well as whether or not you’ll use a barrier method, she says.
Knowing when you’re ovulating can also help you make other lifestyle choices, adds Northcutt.
“People often notice increased strength during workouts at this time, so you can take advantage of the hormonal fluctuations that occur during this phase by lifting heavy,” she says.
This can help you understand the way your overall menstrual cycle influences your vaginal discharge, pain levels, energy, and more.
It can also help you understand how your contraceptive method impacts your physical self if it does, says Hoffman.
Many hormonal contraceptives can affect your bleeding patterns and related cramping, notes Hoffman, so tracking these changes can be useful for your own peace of mind or to share with your doctor if you have concerns.
Emotional and mental changes
“Simply noticing patterns can help you anticipate and prepare for emotional changes, which allows you to adapt your activities and self-care practices accordingly,” says Northcutt.
Other medications and supplements
“Some medications and supplements can interfere with how well some types of contraceptives work, so you might want to track these to know when you need to use additional contraception [like] condoms,” explains Hoffman.
Dietary and activity changes
If jotting down info on these won’t compromise your overall well-being, you may choose to!
Doing so, says Northcutt, can help give you info on what kinds of activities and foods make you feel best generally, as well as at different times of the month.
“How often you track really depends on your reason for contraceptive journaling and what your goals are,” says Hoffman.
“If you’re simply keeping a contraception journal to remember to check your IUD threads, or to remember when you had your implant inserted, then daily isn’t necessary at all,” she says. “But if it’s to record pill taking, daily is usually needed.”
Similarly, if you’re using it to estimate ovulation through basal body temperature or cervical mucus tracking, once or twice a day is required, she says.
Simply put, tracking gives you information about your body.
“Some track because they’re aiming to conceive, while others track to help them avoid pregnancy,” says Northcutt.
There are various reasons an individual may choose not to keep a contraception journal.
Some of these include the following:
- The process can be time consuming.
- They know that they have a tendency to become unhealthily fixated on certain metrics.
- Tracking doesn’t support their overall mental well-being.
- They aren’t having partnered sex.
- They feel like tracking fertility markers can create added pressure to conceive.
- They’re concerned about privacy.
“Be conscious of the apps and people that you’re sharing your data with, especially reproductive data,” says Hoffman.
If you opt for an app, only use one with a proven commitment to privacy and security. Ideally, an app that has obtained an ISO27001 certification, which is an internationally recognized security standard, she says.
“You could also read through privacy policies and check if you have the right to delete your data upon request,” she suggests.
See if the app has an anonymous mode or anonymous user option, which allows you to access the tracker without inputting your name, email address, and other technical identifiers. This helps keep you from being associated with your health data, explains Hoffman.
“You can also do things like put a passcode on your phone if you’re using an app, or put a physical lock on your journal or otherwise use shorthand info to track,” she says.
There are many benefits to keeping a contraception journal and mediums for tracking.
To figure out what type of contraception journal works best for you, consider what you’d like to track and why, as well as how to do so in such a way that prioritizes your privacy and safety.
Gabrielle Kassel (she/her) is a queer sex educator and wellness journalist who is committed to helping people feel the best they can in their bodies. In addition to Healthline, her work has appeared in publications such as Shape, Cosmopolitan, Well+Good, Health, Self, Women’s Health, Greatist, and more! In her free time, Gabrielle can be found coaching CrossFit, reviewing pleasure products, hiking with her border collie, or recording episodes of the podcast she co-hosts called Bad In Bed. Follow her on Instagram @Gabriellekassel.