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

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