Clue. Eve Tracker. Flo. Period Diary. Ovia Fertility. Cycles. Dot. My Calendar. My Days.
You probably wondering whether I am just throwing words to fill up a blog post, and I wouldn’t blame you.
If you are not a lady – these may seem like random words. But they are not. These are just an offshoot of the avalanche of period tracking apps (PTAs) that have infiltrated our market (and let’s face it, in the age of Google Calendar, isn’t that all of us?).
A search for period tracking apps will quickly bring up dozens of offerings – some with charts, others illustrated with pink tulips or lilac flowers or pink icons.
These apps can help you with pretty much everything you need to conceive quickly, except for, ahem, doing the deed itself. That’s on you.
In fact, the fertility app space has never been, well, more fertile. We have an app for everything now, and periods have not been left behind, the pun here is not intended.
Some, like the Eve App, has offerings like “Men are cute” and “Get it, girl xo,” and recommends sex positions that seem more likely to end in a hospital visit than an orgasm.
Some period tracker apps even predict a woman’s mood in addition to fertility signs. I can hear a collective sigh of ‘aahh-now-it-all-makes-sense’ from the men. But what has led to the boom in femtech (Female Health Technology)?
“Periods usually arrive once each month, but the exact date, flow, cramp severity, and accompanying symptoms are not quite that consistent. For this very reason, the app market is flooded with period trackers that aim to offer insight into your monthly cycle.” – Medical News Today.
It is estimated that there are as many as 200m downloads of period tracking apps worldwide. In the health and fitness category, period trackers rank second only to apps which monitor running.
Yes, men. Been wondering why she spends so much time on her phone? She’s probably checking her periods.
HOW ACCURATE ARE THESE PERIOD TRACKERS?
Research conducted by a team at the University of Washington examined a number of smartphone apps used to track the menstrual cycle — including Clue, Eve, Glow, Period Tracker, and Pink Pad — and found that many apps were not as accurate or user-friendly as they could be.
There has been growing criticism that most of the applications are driven by profit dynamics while ignoring a wide range of reproductive and sexual health needs.
And as The Guardian posits: The increased visibility of women’s bodily functions clearly brings its own dangers. It is after all a form of intimate surveillance – do we really know where our biometric details go? Have we consented to their use for marketing or research purposes? Do we understand the science behind these apps, especially if we are relying on them to aid potentially life-changing choices to predict, prevent or even plan pregnancy?
First off, no period tracker offers 100% protection, which you’ll find in the small print. Take Natural Cycles for example: their website confirms that the app’s success rate is 93% with typical use. This means seven in every 100 women who use it as contraception will fall pregnant.
However, this success rate is comparable to the pill. But, and it’s a big but, only when it’s used properly.
AfyaWatch spoke to a few young millennial ladies who use PTAs seeking to know just how accurate their period trackers were and what happens when/if they are not.
SHEILA, Mid-twenties, Account Executive.
AW: Which PA do you use?
SHEILA: I use My Calendar.
AW: Why do you use it?
SHEILA: I use it to track my period days properly. I use this particular app because it has no ads, and is password protected, as well as the fact that it does not use the Internet to function.
AW: What is its accuracy level?
SHEILA: I’d say up to an 8.
AW: Has it ever failed?
SHEILA: Not even once
AW: Have you had a pregnancy scare or know a friend who has?
SHEILA: Personally I have not had a pregnancy scare but I know of a friend who did and ended up pregnant through the app. She miscalculated her days, and since you cannot reprogram the app, she ended up getting paged.
Alice 24, Art Designer.
I use My Days Period Tracker app because it reminds and keeps me alert of my periods and ovulation days. Besides, it’s far much easier than marking my days on the calendar.
I’d say the app is 98% accurate but it has failed a couple of times. In its defense this was due to traveling to different climatic conditions (which is not an option in the app), so my periods either delayed, came earlier or I had my menses 4 days before I had a repeat of the menses for 2 days again.
I have not had a pregnancy scare using the app, and I know because even though my menses begin after every 25 days (unlike the ‘popular’ 28 days), I can say I have regular periods.
Njoroge-Wanjiru, 24. Writer.
I use the My Calendar app.
I prefer it because I want to learn how I behave when ovulating, and to basically monitor my ovulation.
I have learnt a lot about myself through the app. I discovered I have different symptoms for different times when I’m menstruating. Sometimes my back aches, other times I’m extremely horny.
I have used the app for three months – so I’m pretty new. I know it’s not 100% accurate as sometimes I may feel like I am ovulating but on the app I am not. Other factors in play would make it out to be a fail, such as an increase in weight, which changes its predictions…or even a change in lifestyle.
At times I have irregular periods especially when I add weight, or when my blood isn’t enough.
I trust the My Calendar app, despite knowing that I willingly share personal details with it. Everything is pretty much consensual and it feels like having a friend who is not too intrusive but always present.
I just love the fact that it can help you organize your life, especially when you want to get pregnant – just consult the app and boom! And for someone like me who has irregular periods I can eat tree tomatoes or anything that may add me some blood as I approach my menses.
Dora, 23. Data Analyst.
I use the Flo App, and I have to say it is very accurate.
I am a regular-period kind of person, as my periods tend to occur at very frequent intervals, sometimes even twice a month and this may even slip my mind, and hence the app is there to serve as a reminder.
The app has never failed me, but this is only as long as you input the correct data.
I have had a pregnancy scare before. Since I have regular periods, the start date may tend to change due to different factors so when you don’t log in the start date it starts sending notification over the possibility of pregnancy, which can be alarming, only for you to have your periods.
YOUR CHECKLIST BEFORE USING A PERIOD TRACKER APP FOR CONTRACEPTION:
• First, discuss with a medical professional about the best options for you.
• Research what exactly period tracker apps are good for – in other words, tracking your fertility and ovulation windows and spotting abnormalities.
• Keep in mind that there are many factors that can affect the timing of ovulation, like stress, sleep patterns, over-exercising, eating patterns, etc
• Acknowledge that no readings from current period tracker apps are 100% effective.
• Stick to a regular bedtime. If you don’t, the reading can very easily be incorrect
• Be in a regular enough routine to take your temperature first thing in the morning, otherwise, as above, the reading may not be accurate.
• Don’t risk it! Nobody wants to b staring at an unplanned pregnancy in this digital age.