What you need to know about Period Apps.
If you're getting into fertility awareness or want to tune in to how your body works, you're gonna want a tool that helps you keep track of your cycle.
When I teach Fertility Awareness I recommend starting with a simple paper chart - it’s easy to use, cost-free and honestly it’s all that you need to accurately keep track of your fertility.
So first off you can download a paper chart and use it as a place to store the data you collect about your body.
Download your free paper chart here
Since we often have our phones in our pockets an App can be a convenient way to collect your fertility data.
But the "Fem-tech" industry is getting flooded with Apps and period trackers to chart your cycle.
This is great in some ways- more people tuning in and building awareness of how their body works, but on the flip side Apps aren't usually created by Fertility Awareness Educators and not all apps are created with your privacy or safety in mind.
So I’m going to share with you the two major things to look out for when you are choosing your fertility App and then we’ll check out a couple of Apps that I do recommend working with.
First thing to be aware of.
1. YOUR PRIVACY
In order to use a Fertility App you enter sensitive information including; your cervical mucus secretions, your basal body temperature, your sleep schedule and intimate details about your sex life.
So the big question here is:
What is the App company doing with your data?
Privacy in technology is a massive field and I certainly am no expert in this regard - but I do want to flag that App companies can and do sell your data to advertisers and marketers.(1)
So apart from annoying ads popping up on your socials when you haven’t told anyone your fertility goals - is there a problem with Apps having access to your data?
Dena Mendelsohn a senior counsel member from Consumer Report is concerned that having your health data shared in ways you’re not aware of can have serious consequences...
“It could impact your ability to obtain life insurance, how much you pay for your coverage, and even leave you vulnerable to workplace discrimination." (1).
Can App companies legally share or sell your data?
In a word - yes.
What keeps your private health information safe with your health practitioner doesn't apply to Cycle tracking Apps, that's because Apps don't need to comply with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) a federal law that limits where healthcare providers can share your information.
Even though it may seem like a bore - it’s really important to check in with the nitty gritty of your App and find out what they do with your info.
What data are they gathering?
How long will they store your data?
Who are they sharing it with?
What happens to your data when you get a new phone, update or delete their App?
And keep in mind: if you aren't spending money purchasing your App - how does the App company make money? (spoiler: selling your data!)
This is the other App RED FLAG!
Your fertility is not an algorithm.
When Apps predict your fertile days they are using an algorithm - based on your previous cycles as well as other cycles in their database - to guess the timing of your fertility.
Even Apps that use thermometers to confirm ovulation has happened (like Daysy and Natural Cycles) are still making predictions about your fertile window.
In practice that means your App could tell you that you’re infertile when you're actually fertile.
This puts you at risk for unintended pregnancy.
Why aren't Apps reliable predictors of fertility?
Ovulation is not a static process.
It's the result of complex hormonal signaling that starts in the brain and works it's way down to your ovaries.
Your hormonal (endocrine) system is stress sensitive and responds to changes in your body and in your environment.
Stress, disrupted sleep, medications, alcohol, travel and illness all impact your menstrual cycle, which means...
The timing of ovulation can change from cycle-cycle.
This is why the sympto-thermal method of fertility awareness is based on two biological signs - cervical mucus and your temperature.
Cervical mucus tells you that you’re in your fertile window - and getting ready to ovulate.
Your temperature rise confirms that ovulation did indeed happen.
If a stressful event, illness or new medication is introduced before you ovulate - your body may delay ovulation.
An App based on readings from your previous cycles can not track changes to your fertility and will go on to incorrectly predict your ovulation, putting you at risk for an unintended pregnancy.
An App can’t tell what’s happening in your body today.
But you can.
That’s why learning to understand your own fertile signs is the key to managing your fertility.
WHICH APPS TO USE?
OK - all that said - I use an App for charting and you might like to aswell.
These are the two Apps that as a Fertility Awareness Educator I use and feel comfortable recommending to clients.
Can be used with sympto-thermal Fertility Awareness.
Has useful resources for Fertility Charting.
You will need to turn off predictive functions
2. Read Your Body
Non-profit App created by cycle charters for cycle charters.
Can be used with sympto-thermal Fertility Awareness.
Total privacy - can not see, share or sell your data.
Small cost $1.99 per month or $14.99/year (USD)
There are SO MANY Apps out there and I’m not across them all -but while we're here I want to make it clear - I do not recommend Clue, Flo, Natural Cycles or Daysy.
A note on Natural Cycles & Daysy
These Devices use algorithms to predict your fertile window based on your temperature readings.
Your temperature rise tells you that ovulation has occurred - it's what we call a retrospective sign (you know afterwards).
Your body will secrete cervical mucus in the lead up to ovulation.