4 Apps for Tracking Your Fertility

Image from Bedsider

Image from Bedsider

One of the oldest contraceptive methods is making a big comeback these days. About 22 percent of women use fertility awareness methods (FAMs) according to the CDC, and that figure is increasing every year. More and more women are dropping condoms and the Pill, and picking up new apps that help track their fertility cycle.

In this article, Chelsey Delaney of Bedsider reviews four cycle-tracking apps—Clue, Kindara, Ovia, and Glow—to help explain how tracking your cycle works, and to help you see if there’s a FAM (and an app) out there for you.

This article by Chelsey Delaney was originally published on Bedsider.

BY BEDSIDER | Bedsider.org

Practicing “Fertility Awareness” means more than just scoping out your fertile phases. It involves mapping out your entire cycle, including your fertile phases, your sorta fertile phases, and your not-so-fertile phases (every flavor of fertile, all phases).

Following your cycle closely over time can grow fertility awareness into fertility knowledge. Identifying patterns in and across your cycles can serve a range of purposes: It can help you get pregnant, help you avoid getting pregnant, or simply get you more acquainted with the natural ebb and flow of your reproductive schedule.

To harness this multi-purpose power, consider using a Fertility Awareness Method (FAM). FAMs incorporate cycle-tracking techniques that women have used for generations to help evaluate when it’s fertile time and/or party time.

FAMs seem to be getting more attention recently, so much so that a recent Atlantic article announced the “Return of the Rhythm Method.” (The rhythm method is a well-known name for one approach to fertility awareness.) Why the resurgence? One big reason: mobile technology, baby. I reviewed four cycle-tracking apps—Clue, Kindara, Ovia, and Glow—to help explain how tracking your cycle works, and to help you see if there’s a FAM (and an app) out there for you.

1. The Calendar Method + Clue

With the Calendar Method, you document the day your periods start and end along with the number of days between periods (your cycle). Beyond that, there’s a lot of math involved. That’s where the Clue app comes in—to help simplify. The Clue app practices the art of all FAMs mentioned here (using this combination of FAMs is called the “Symptothermal” method, which you can read more about below), but it’s particularly grand at its execution of the Calendar Method.

The App: “Clue”
Ease of Use: Good
Level of Engagement: Good
Visual Style: Okay (at least there’s no pink)
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Platform(s): iOS and Android

Clue’s dashboard shows your current cycle and allows you to input daily data.

Clue’s dashboard shows your current cycle and allows you to input daily data.

How it works

Clue takes what you input as your last period start and end dates and forecasts fertility based on global health statistics.

Your dashboard displays your cycle and you can choose to see it in a cyclical display or a calendar display. Input each period, plus some additional info if you feel like it, and Clue starts to learn your personal pattern, improving its forecast with each cycle. It also features a library of default reminders for your period, your fertile window, your ovulation day, and more.

Despite any app’s awesomeness, using this method alone holds no guarantees—especially for those of us with unpredictable and inconsistent flows. That’s why Clue and other apps mentioned here allow you to input your daily basal body temperature (BBT) to improve the accuracy of their predictions.

Using BBT data to understand your fertility is referred to as the Temperature Method. If you’re looking to dig really deep (into your fertile soil, if you know what I mean), consider using the Calendar Method alongside the Temperature Method.

2. The Temperature Method + Kindara

You can learn a lot about your cycle from your body temperature, particularly your BBT. To get your BBT, you should take your temperature at a time when your body is at its most rested state—usually when you first wake up in the morning (before consuming the glory that is coffee).

To fully experience the beauty of the Temperature Method, you’ll need to get a BBT read that’s accurate right down to a fraction of a degree. So, throw your average thermometer out the window (just a phrase, not a real suggestion), and get a BBT thermometer at your local pharmacy. Or, wait until Spring 2015 for the full Kindara / Wink package.

Like Clue, Kindara includes different FAMs, but it stands out in terms of the Temperature Method thanks to the app’s introduction of a super smart counterpart BBT thermometer, “Wink”.

The App: “Kindara” paired with the “Wink” BBT thermometer
Ease of Use: Okay
Level of Engagement: Good
Visual Style: Good
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Platform(s): iOS and Android

How it works

The Kindara app features a suite of data-logging tools to gain fertility insight, including:

  • A calendar to track your period and cycle;
  • A daily questionnaire to log your BBT, period flow, the state of your cervix, and more;
  • A chart tool to visually and clearly present your data over time to reveal fertility patterns; and
  • A community of other users who share tips and insights from their own experiences.

This spring (2015), the people behind Kindara are releasing “Wink”, a super accurate BBT thermometer that automatically syncs with your Kindara app. You can pre-order it here.

Using the combination of the Temperature Method and the Calendar Method should start to reveal some patterns about your fertility, as you can see with Kindara’s chart feature. Kindara (like many other apps) also incorporates another method for even more informed revelations: the Cervical Mucus Method.

Kindara’s dashboard offers quick-and-easy input of your BBT.

Kindara’s dashboard offers quick-and-easy input of your BBT.

3. The Cervical Mucus Method + Ovia

The, ahem, appropriately named Cervical Mucus Method involves investigating the physical form of your (you guessed it) cervical mucus, as well as determining the position and feel of your cervix. The Ovia app isn’t just about tracking cervical mucus, but it is particularly thorough in its mucus-tracking efforts compared to the other apps I reviewed. (I’d love to see what a trophy for “Most Thorough Mucus-Tracking” would look like. Or, I wouldn’t.)

The App: “Ovia”
Ease of Use: Okay
Level of Engagement: Okay
Visual Style: Good
Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Platform(s): iOS and Android

Ovia’s dashboard displays timely information about the state of your cycle and a feed of miscellaneous diet and exercise recommendations.

Ovia’s dashboard displays timely information about the state of your cycle and a feed of miscellaneous diet and exercise recommendations.

How it works

Similar to Kindara, Ovia features a large suite of tracking tools. In fact, it’s a really, really huge suite: It asks you to enter a daily log of things as detailed as how many glasses of water you drank, how many servings of protein you had, how many steps you took, etc.

While the app’s attention to detail might not work best for those of us who favor a quick open-submit-close experience, its use of visuals and icons provide greater context for how to interpret the consistency of your cervical fluid. And, knowledge (about cervical fluid) is power.

Of course, the Cervical Mucus Method isn’t ideal for women who don’t produce much mucus. Either way, it will take time to get the hang of interpreting what your mucus means—it’s mucus. So, combine this method with other methods to start, or combine all the methods together. Which brings us to…

4. The Symptothermal Method + Glow

When you combine the Calendar Method, the Temperature Method, and the Cervical Mucus Method together, you get the Symptothermal Method. That’s some deep body math, people.

The Symptothermal Method is for the hardcore DIY fertility scientist inside of you who really wants to nail this thing down. Most fertility apps out there make use of the Symptothermal Method, but Glow does an especially great job of keeping it easy and fun.

The App: “Glow”
Ease of Use: Good
Level of Engagement: Good
Visual Style: Excellent
Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Platform(s): iOS and Android

Glow’s dashboard shows the current state of your cycle as well as an overview of your latest data log.

Glow’s dashboard shows the current state of your cycle as well as an overview of your latest data log.

How it works

The Glow dashboard shows relevant information about your current cycle day and a prompt to log your basic information regarding temperature, periods, sex, and cervical mucus to form its fertility predictions.

The more you input over time, the more Glow learns about you. It then provides you with daily tips and statistics-based insights related to what you log about your lifestyle and your cycles.

Glow also features a lively community, the ability to set custom reminders, and even the ability to share your fertility progress with your partner. Except, it doesn’t have a cool BBT thermometer counterpart… yet?

If you want to use a FAM for birth control…

If you’re serious about relying on a FAM for pregnancy prevention, it’s always a good idea to use a non-hormonal back-up method like condoms while you’re getting the hang of tracking your cycle. You’ll also need a back-up method—even if it’s just not having sex, though that can be a challenging one—to use during your “fertile window.”

If you want to validate how well you’re using your FAM, you can always purchase an ovulation test and/or fertility monitor. If you want to learn more about fertility awareness and FAMs in general, check out our article that explains the basics of fertility tracking, or visit the site of fertility expert Toni Weschler, which goes into depth about “Taking Charge of Your Fertility.”

And if you have an app you love for fertility tracking, tell us about it in the comments. Happy new-age cycle-tracking!

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bedsiderBEDSIDER is an online birth control support network for women operated by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen & Unplanned Pregnancy. Bedsider is totally independent (no pharmaceutical or government involvement). Honest and unbiased, Bedsider’s goal is to help women find the method of birth control that’s right for them and learn how to use it consistently and effectively, and that’s it.
Find Bedsider on twitter @Bedsider

Can I Get Pregnant If…? A Pregnancy Scare Companion

pregnancy scareDo you think you (or your partner) might be pregnant?

We get a lot of questions from readers wondering, “Can I get pregnant if…”. Bottom line: You can’t get pregnant from activities like petting or oral sex, only from activities in which semen comes in direct contact with the vagina. But what if there was pre-cum, or ejaculation near the genitals? What if you are late for your period even though you used a condom?

If you are not sure if you experienced real risks of pregnancy, this post is for you. Heather Corinna of Scarleteen provides information and resources based on your unique situation. Whether you are late for your period, or tested positive for a pregnancy test, or don’t know where to find emergency contraceptives, this article will help you figure out the next best steps.

Here’s a quickie on how pregnancy happens:

  • Pregnancy can happen when semen (ejaculation or cum) or precum gets inside the vagina.
  • Emergency contraceptives (the morning after pill) can prevent pregnancy up to five days after unprotected sex.
  • You can reduce the risk pregnancy by not having direct genital-to-genital contact, or using condoms and birth control every time you have sex.
  • Read the article below for more information about the type of sexual activities that increase  risk of pregnancy.

This post was originally published on Scarleteen.

BY HEATHER CORINNA | Scarleteen

In the thick of a pregnancy scare? Freaking out? Not sure what to do? We know how scary this can be, and we’re here to have your back in it.

Take a few deep breaths (really: do some good, slow breathing, you’ll feel better and be able to think more clearly once you do), and have a seat. Based on your unique situation, we’ll walk you through your next steps, give you some extra helps, fill you in on some common self-sabotagers, and do our best to help you chill out and pull it together so you can get through a scare without losing your mind and your well-being in the process.

Is your (or your partner’s) menstrual period not yet due?

In other words, a period isn’t late or missed, because it’s not even due for another few days or weeks. Click here for your next steps.

Are you (or your partner) due for a menstrual period around now, but it’s not late yet?  Click here for your next steps.

Are you (or your partner) currently experiencing a late or missed menstrual period?

In other words, a menstrual period has not yet arrived and was expected at least five or more days ago. Click here for your next steps.

Do you (or your partner) have irregular periods, so you can’t really answer the questions above?

If your (or your partner’s) menstrual periods are irregular, or you (or your partner) use a method of contraception that often causes skipped or missed periods, click here for your next steps.

Have you (or a partner) had a menstrual period since the risk you are concerned about?

A menstrual period is happening now or has occurred since the risk you’re concerned about, but you’re still worried about pregnancy. Click here for your next steps.

Have you (or a partner) had a pregnancy test with a positive (pregnant) result? Click here for your next steps.

Have you (or a partner) had a pregnancy test with a negative (not pregnant) result? Click here for your next steps.

Has it been less than 120 hours since your risk?

If you would like to reduce your risk, you or your partner can use a method of emergency contraception (EC) to reduce the risk by as much as 95% with oral medications designed as EC, and as much as 98% using a copper IUD. EC is most effective when used within 24 hours, so you want to get a move on if you can and want to use it. For information on emergency contraception, click here. To find the kinds of EC available in your area, or which kinds of oral contraceptives you can use as emergency contraception, and how to use them that way, click here.

Not sure if you or a partner have had a real risk of pregnancy or not?

In order for pregnancy to be a possibility, the kind of contact that has to happen is:

  • Direct (with no clothing, at all, covering anyone’s genitals) genital-to-genital contact between someone with a penis and someone with a vulva, such as genital intercourse or otherwise rubbing genitals together OR
  • Direct contact with ejaculate (semen) and the vulva, vaginal opening or anus.

BUT (and it’s a really big one): If either of those kinds of contact did occur, but one or more reliable methods of contraception was used properly, that risk is radically reduced, by a minimum of 70%*, and as much as 99.9%. And even if you used two methods, any two reliable methods at all — like the pill plus withdrawal, or a condom plus a Depo shot — only typically, rather than perfectly, you still will only have had about a 10% risk of pregnancy at a maximum.

Scenarios like these are NOT how pregnancy happens:

  • Masturbation or mutual masturbation (masturbating in the same space with someone else)
  • Being in the same space as someone with a penis and doing things like using their towels, sharing a toilet, touching their clothing, or sharing a bed to sleep or rest in
  • Sitting somewhere where someone did or may have ejaculated
  • Taking a shower, bath or swim with someone with a penis
  • Thinking about sex or fantasizing
  • Kissing, making out or fondling
  • Dry humping (rubbing genitals together when one or more people involved have some kind of clothing on that covers the genitals)
  • Oral sex or manual sex (fingering or handjobs)
  • Contact with pre-ejaculate, but NOT during intercourse or direct genital-to-genital contact
  • Touching yourself after you touched someone whose hand has touched their penis
  • Having someone with a penis ejaculate on some part of the body other than your genitals, like your buttocks, back or breasts
  • Direct genital-to-genital contact or direct contact with ejaculate when you and a partner have the same kinds of genitals (like each of you having a vulva or each of you having a penis).

Situations like these are ways pregnancy can theoretically occur, but where it is not at all likely:

  • Rubbing the vulva with hands that have recently touched semen
  • Intercourse or other direct genital-to-genital or genital fluid contact where two (or more) reliable methods of contraception were used properly
  • Unprotected anal sex without ejaculation

Are pregnancy scares a constant for you, or occurring even when you’re not having the kinds of contact that can result in pregnancy in reality?

1) Do you know the facts about how pregnancy happens, and what can and cannot present real risks of pregnancy? If not, you can educate yourself here or here. If you already know the facts, or find that now that you have them, you still feel scared or can’t believe them, then this probably isn’t about a lack of education about reproduction.

2) Do yourself a solid and take any kind of contact that is freaking you out like this off the table ASAP for now (that you can: for instance, if living in a house with family members who have a penis is freaking you out, you can’t very well ask them to leave so you can deal). If you are not in a relationship where you feel you are allowed to have any limits you need with sex of any kind, that’s a cue you’re not in a healthy relationship or dynamic, or just not yet able to assert yourself enough to manage sexual activity, so may need to get yourself away from that relationship, period.

3) Take some real time — not hours or a few days, but a week or two or even a few months or more, whatever you need — to figure out what you need to have these kinds of contact comfortably and without panic. Only engage in that kind of contact again when you CAN have what you need to be comfortable, whether that’s two methods of contraception, a different partner or kind of relationship, or counseling or therapy to help you with assertiveness, sexual fear or shame or an anxiety disorder.

4) If none of the above has any big impact on your fears over the next few weeks or months, then it’s time to seek out some help from a qualified mental health professional, like a counselor or therapist.

Want more information about pregnancy scares, pregnancy, contraception and making sexual choices you feel comfortable with?

Pregnancy Scared?
Human Reproduction: A Seafarer’s Guide
On the Rag: A Guide to Menstruation
Let’s Dial Down Some (Maybe) Ovulation Freakouts
Chicken Soup for the Pregnancy Symptom Freakout’s Soul
You’re Not Pregnant. So, Why Do You Think You Are?
Peeing on a Stick: All About Pregnancy Tests
Birth Control Bingo!
The Buddy System: Effectiveness Rates for Backing Up Your Birth Control With a Second Method
Have a Little Faith in BC
Who’s Afraid of Sperm Cells?
Ready or Not? The Scarleteen Sex Readiness Checklist
Risky Business: Learning to Consider Risk and Make Sound Sexual Choices
Whoa, There! How to Slow Down When You’re Moving Too Fast

Here’s some information from other credible sources:

Can I Get Pregnant If…? (Options for Sexual Health)
Could I be Pregnant? (Teen Health Source)
How Pregnancy Happens (Planned Parenthood)
Am I Pregnant? (Brook)

*Effectiveness rates for methods of contraception are figured for one full year of use. Figures presented here and elsewhere about effectiveness, with the exception of emergency contraception methods, present effectiveness rates over one full year of use, not per use or per day.

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heatherHEATHER CORINNA is an activist, artist, author and the director of Scarleteen, the inclusive online resource for teen and young adult sex education and information. She is also the author of S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-to-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College and was a contributor to the 2011 edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves. She’s received the The Champions of Sexual Literacy Award for Grassroots Activism (2007), The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, Western Region’s, Public Service Award (2009), the Our Bodies, Ourselves’ Women’s Health Heroes Award (2009), The Joan Helmich Educator of the Year Award (2012), and The Woodhull Foundation’s Vicki Award(2013).

scarleteenSCARLETEEN is an independent, grassroots sexuality education and support organization and website. Founded in 1998, Scarleteen.com is visited by around three-quarters of a million diverse people each month worldwide, most between the ages of 15 and 25. It is the highest-ranked website for sex education and sexuality advice online and has held that rank through the majority of its tenure.
Find Scarleteen on twitter @Scarleteen

4 Things That Make Your Period Easier and Sexier

Image from Beth Granter and the "Seeing Red Project"

Image from Beth Granter and the “Seeing Red Project”

We often learn about menstruation in early sex education, usually around the time when female students are starting their periods. Typically boys and girls are separated from each other to talk “in private” and taught about deodorant, pubic hair, disposable pads and tampons. However, there are more choices when it comes to menstrual flow than what is often taught in sex ed class.

Sex educator, Kate McCombs expands on those options from a pleasure-inclusive perspective, offering four things that will make your period easier and sexier. She talks about how menstruation doesn’t have to be an unsexy obstacle or messy hassle of “ragging it”. Here are her practical tips to relieve any discomfort and embrace menstruation as a vital sign of good health.

Revisit the way you relate to your period and take a look at these lesser known products she recommends.

This post was originally publish here

BY KATE MCCOMBS | KateMcCombs.com

Managing a period isn’t always easy. For those of us with uteruses who are post-puberty and pre-menopause, learning to care for oneself during menstruation is both a rite of passage and a necessary life skill.

In school, the sex ed we got (if we were lucky) included things like how to use maxi pads and tampons or how to use a hot pad for cramps. But there are some grown-up period management skills that I didn’t learn in my middle school health class.

This post is all about those things – the things I learned as an adult that make that time of the month go more smoothly.

1. Silicone menstrual cups. Reusable silicone menstrual cups, like the Diva Cup and Lunette, have become an essential instrument in my period-management tool kit. They’re soft and flexible, about the size of a shot glass, and shaped like the cup portion of a wine glass. They last for years, are eco-friendly, and can be worn for up to 12 hours at a time during light flow days.

My favorite thing about menstrual cups: For folks who are concerned about containing the blood, the cup makes it easier to receive oral sex during your period. If you insert it in the shower and rinse off, blood doesn’t get outside your body until you empty your cup again.

To learn more about them, check out this piece I wrote called “Why I <3 Menstrual Cups”.

2. Liberator Throe. It’s velvet on one side, satin on the other, and it’s designed to keep lube and bodily fluids off your bedding. Any liquids the Throe comes into contact with will not seep through the fabric, so it keeps your sheets and upholstery clean.

You can see how this makes period sex easier. Just throw down the Throe, and period sex can be more spontaneous and easier to clean up.

3. Black nitrile gloves. When Andy and I were discussing the Throe for period sex, he mentioned to me that he often gets questions about safer sex during menstruation from customers in the Good Vibrations stores.

Andy Duran of Good Vibrations store suggestion for both sexier safer sex and a sexier period: black nitrile gloves. If you happen to be bothered or turned off by the sight of blood, these gloves make it less obvious because of the dark color.

It’s also easy to turn them inside out when you’re taking them off so any blood stays contained. And how hot is a tight-fitting black glove?

4. Dear Kate underwear. These amazing stain- and leak-resistant panties are designed to be backups for whatever menstrual product you’re using. They’re cute, comfortable, and made in the USA. Not to mention they have an awesome name 😉

The CEO of Dear Kate, Julie Sygiel, has an engineering background and spent two years developing the first line of Dear Kate panties. She created a problem-solving product designed to make a period feel sexier.

(An off-label use for Dear Kates: wear them as post-coital panties at any time of the month for containing any lube and bodily fluids that escape when gravity takes effect.)

kate_mccombsKATE MCCOMBS is a NYC-based sex educator, writer, and maker of puns. Ultimately, all of Kate’s work is about helping people feel more comfortable talking about sex. She believes that meaningful conversations + accurate information can help us create a healthier and more pleasure-filled world. Kate writes articles and teaches workshops about sexual health, pleasure, and communication.
Follow Kate on Twitter @katecom

Let’s Talk About the Cervix and Pleasure For Once!

Jenelle Notte: The cervix looks similar to the bagel. Photo credit: Denis Wilkinson

Jenelle Notte: “The cervix looks similar to the bagel.” Photo credit: Denis Wilkinson

The cervix seems to have become synonymous with HPV and cancer. Yes, today HPV is the most common STI in the United States. According to the CDC, “HPV is so common that most sexually active men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives.” So it is no surprise that there is a lot of information out there about threats to the cervix.

There is more to the cervix than only being laden with medical health problems, yet very few of us know about the cervix outside of reproductive health issues. In fact, there is little discussion of the cervix just as it is with no external forces affecting it.

This realization comes to us from JoEllen, The Redhead Bedhead expert. Departing from the main discourses on cervixes- that is, it’s role in pregnancy, HPV and cancer- JoEllen writes about how the cervix relates to pleasure. We’ve also included at the end a helpful video from Megan Andelloux about how people can avoid their cervix getting bumped or causing pain during sex.

The main points of this piece are:

  • The cervix exists independently of any cautionary medical tales.
  • It functions to channel things like menstrual blood from the uterus and sperm to the egg.
  • The cervix changes in it’s texture and shape, and moves throughout the menstrual cycle. When it’s enlarged it can be easier to bump during sex, which explains why sex can feel different at different times! Interesting!
  • There are certain sexual positions and toys that will reduce the chances of bumping the cervix (unless you like it bumped!). See video at the end for tips!

Read the full article on The Redhead Bedhead.

BY JOELLEN NOTTE | theRedheadBedhead.com

Recently I got curious about my cervix. Why, you ask? Well, I’ve been having a lot of fun sex (hooray for cute boy who makes me smile) and I noticed that a certain position that I enjoy thoroughly was resulting in my cervix getting bumped some times but not others. I realized that I didn’t know much about the cervix and so I decided to do some research which quickly became frustrating when I realized that 99.876% (rough estimate) of the talking that gets done about cervixes involves either getting pregnant or cancer. I wanted to know about my body, just existing- what the heck, maybe even experiencing pleasure- but it seemed that unless it was part of a cautionary article about HPV….or an instructional post about how to get knocked up no one wanted to discuss it.

Today we’re talking cervical facts, what it looks like, feels like and does and even why mine sometimes gets hit in that one position and sometimes doesn’t. So here goes-

What does is look like?

Picture a puffy disc with a depression (a dimple, if you will) at its center. True to form I, in looking for images to illustrate the appearance of the cervix, landed on food:

This is a bialy. Basically a bagel with a dent instead of a hole. It is delicious. It also looks like a cervix.

Read the full article at The Redhead Bedhead.

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JoEllen-NotteJOELLEN NOTTE is helping to share the gospel of better living through better sex ed (amen!) – serving as both the Education Coordinator & Lead Sex Educator for the Portland Academy of Sex Education and a co-Emissary of Sex Geekdom Portland. Working as an adult retail consultant, she is working to help promote better sex through better adult retail. JoEllen first began fighting sexual mediocrity on her site theRedheadBedhead.com. Follow JoEllen on twitter: @bedheadtweeting