Today, we’re talking period tracking apps. Inclusive language is a divisive topic that has been at the centre of media attention the past couple of years. Here’s a brief refresher: an organised hate group that refer to themselves as ‘gender critical’ claim inclusive language erases womanhood. When in reality, it simply allows everyone to join the conversation (including women).
When it comes to menstruation (and period tracking apps) in particular, inclusive language does not take anything away from your own individual experience. Making simple switches such as ‘people who menstruate’ instead of ‘women’ when speaking generally, allows everyone to feel seen and included. It encourages people of all genders to advocate for themselves and to me that is only a positive thing.
So with this in mind, just how inclusive are period tracking apps these days? I downloaded and trialled the first 10 period apps I could find on the app store, so you don’t have to.
First, some context
I track my cycles using both pen and paper as well as period tracking apps. As somebody who has had irregular cycles for a long time I like to be able to look for patterns physically on paper. However, I also keep track on an app for convenience too. I like having this information readily at my disposal.
I have tried a lot of period tracking apps in my time and the one I consider to be the gold standard is Clue. It has the most user-friendly design, does not forget about its free users, has a wide range of educational sources and is generally the most inclusive on the market. Clue is my benchmark.
How I measured how inclusive period tracking apps are
- The ways periods are discussed
- Gendered language / pronoun use
- Options that can be tracked
- Colour scheme
- General theme
Period tracking apps I downloaded
- Eve (17+)
- Glow (12+)
- My Calendar – Period Tracker (4+)
- Period Tracker by GP Apps (12+)
- Flo (12+)
- Stardust (12+)
- Period + Ovulation Diary (4+)
- Moody (12+)
- Period Tracker Period Calendar (12+)
- Nyra (12+)
Eve by Glow
This was actually one of the very first period tracking apps I used when I first set out to find one years ago. I did end up using it for quite some time before my needs changed. Dubbed ‘The Cosmo magazine of period apps’, there is a big focus on community at Eve. There are a ton of groups/forums you can access and post to for support and advice. In fact, when you log in a few come up on the home screen. If you go to the ‘groups’ tab, it shows you what discussions are currently trending too. A lot of it is unfortunately very heteronormative. Queer and trans-inclusive groups exist, you just have to search for them.
Other things you can find on the Eve app is a daily rotation of content to engage with. There’s quizzes, polls and also something they call ‘cyclescope’ which is insight tailored to the specific cycle day you’re logging (which is a premium feature). You can also find ‘gems’, another premium feature that offers you nuggets of information with categories that have questionable names such as ‘lady parts’, ‘sexy seduction’ and so on. The app emails you summaries, which is a little annoying. However, I cannot fault the design. It’s incredibly user-friendly and I love how red it is.
Some positive include a wide range of tracking options specifically when it comes to mood and PMS symptoms, which is a feature I enjoyed years ago. I would also say that being able to reach menstruating peers through the touch of a button and away from social media is probably transformative for people who don’t have that outlet in their life.
The push notifications aim to make periods fun and light but they are heavily gendered i.e. ‘hey girl!’. They are no longer active on social media but a quick glance shows a very outdated ‘the future is female’ type of feminism. Interestingly enough, I found multiple threads from transgender users saying they wish they could tell the app their gender or pronouns to avoid push notifications triggering gender dysphoria.
It is unclear whether the groups are monitored or feedback has been taken on board.
Does it contribute to period stigma? No, but some updates are needed.
Final thoughts: Good, but room for improvement.
This is Eve’s parent company/app. It has a similar interface but is simpler and focuses more on conception. Interestingly enough, the age is listed for a younger audience. When you first sign up, it prompts you to enter your gender. Although it is great men can use the app too, there should be more than two options for gender. In terms of groups you have access to, it’s more or less the same as Eve’s offerings. The only difference here is there are a lot more free articles to read through on Glow. One thing that stuck out to me was the broader range of tracking options for cervical mucus specifically. Presumably because it is an app that is aimed for people trying to get pregnant, but those who are childfree would benefit from these tracking options too!
Does it contribute to stigma? No, but it does not cater to all pregnant people.
This is one of many basic period tracking apps out there that is clearly aimed at young girls. I found it incredibly frustrating to use; it was fiddly and hard to toggle period dates. There is not a lot of tracking options available in comparison to other apps on the market but it does make the little information you input very easy to look back on.
Some useful features include the ability to set up a reminder to take your birth control pill as well as a breakdown of the cycle day you’re on. For example, I logged the first day of my period and it gave me an estimate number of days until I was fertile and until I would ovulate. It also shows you what day of your cycle you’re on. I wouldn’t recommend this app for somebody looking to track ovulation but I’d say it is a good introduction for young people to start understanding the cycle as a whole.
A quick note on ovulation and period tracking apps: No app can accurately predict when you are ovulating. Bodies are unpredictable, something could throw you off one month and you ovulate later than normal. How can an app leave room for that? The technology simply isn't there. Many apps will present you with a predicted fertile window based off your cycle length. You can of course use this as a guide but that's all it is. This is not a good method to avoid pregnancy.
There is a heavy focus on florals, in fact you can change the theme of the app to multiple different coloured floral patterns. Presumably the designers think all young girls love flowers? I’m not sure what the connection is to periods but that may just be my own gripe.
One feature I found questionable is the ability to keep the data secret by using a pin-code or face-ID. Who else other than the person tracking will be looking at the period app? The literature on the app store also mentions ‘discreet reminders’ as part of their USP. Not only does this strike me as odd but I also feel it upholds stigma. Interestingly enough, the only information I could find about this company is the fact they also developed an egg time and a chess timer. Do with that what you will.
Does it contribute to period stigma? Yes, who needs to hide their period tracking app?
Final thoughts: Would not recommend.
The icon for this app is a flower so I braced myself. The actual interface itself mainly consists of blues and greens, which I thought was an interesting choice. Period Tracker functions like a notes app, which is a nice touch. You can keep things simple and just tick ‘period started today’ or you can add your own notes. When you click through the days it’s almost like browsing through your old diary. There is a decent range of symptoms to track as well as the ability to add your own.
The lifestyle tab allows you to track things like step count and exercise, water intake and sleep. The community aspect of the app mainly focuses on lifestyle and features a wide range of health challenges, workouts and more. The developer also has a weight loss app, so it’s clear that the angle they’re going for is staying healthy.
You can turn on modes ‘TTC’ and ‘Pregnancy’, having the option to toggle is handy. I didn’t not see much gendered language but you can invite partners to share data, which I thought was really cool!
Does it contribute to period stigma? No, but aspects of the app could trigger those that find exercise and food talk hard.
Final thoughts: A good option for somebody looking to keep it simple and understand the basics of cycle tracking.
Whenever I ask somebody what period tracking apps they use, it’s usually Clue or Flo. This is an app designed for a person to use through every stage of their life from puberty all the way through to menopause, which is fantastic. There is a great range of symptoms you can track. One thing I did notice was there seems to be slightly more options for cervical mucus than period flow, which seemed odd to me. I would argue a menstrual flow is just as varied as cervical mucus.
You get daily insights based on what you track and the app has a ‘health assistant’ pop up that sends automated messages. You can interact with it to gain advice and lets you skip certain topics if you want to. I think this is a bit of a marmite feature – people will either love it or hate it.
There is a big emphasis on education at Flo, they have a wide range of board certified doctors and health professionals contributing to content. Whilst this is great to see, a lot of the articles look free but if you try to continue reading it prompts you to subscribe to the service. Generally speaking, you cannot do much without the premium access and it’s not cheap ($49.99 for the year).
It is hard to say how inclusive Flo are as I cannot browse much without premium access. I did look at their socials though and was disappointed (but not surprised) to see they do monitor comments and have not address the transphobia in the comment section.
Does it contribute to period stigma? No, in fact it is one of the few apps that actively work to dismantle it.
Final thoughts: I think it’s a fine app, but nothing special.
Period + Ovulation Diary
This is another basic pink app that is very buggy. It crashed every time I tried to view the calendar overview. I also noticed lots of adverts whilst clicking between tabs. There is a ‘learn’ tab that reads like a very basic FAQ page. The answers are short, not very helpful & there is a lot of gendered language.
The notifications are just as limited, you can enable for push notifications for ‘before period start’, ‘period late notification’ and ‘before fertility period’. Considering it is marketed as both a period and ovulation app, I expected more.
Does it contribute to period stigma? No.
Final thoughts: Not very impressive.
I have used this app before, I really like it. The main focus of Moody is to note the mental changes a person goes through during the menstrual cycle. It’s an aspect that is often overlooked and dismissed, so I really commend what they are doing. When you go to track you are met with three questions: ‘how do you feel right now?’, ‘how does your body feel right now?’ and ‘how do you feel about your world right now?’ (which covers aspects like relationships, work, money). You use a rating system of low – high. It calculates an average cycle and an average bleed.
Similar to other apps, there are a range of programmes you can take part in. What is suggested to you depends on where you are in your cycle. Although it is great they are tailoring content to each part of the cycle, the brand have their own names each phase. The first is ‘Bleed’, which is pretty self explanatory. ‘Rise’ (Follicular phase), ‘Shift’ (Ovulatory into Luteal phase) and then ‘Reflect’ (Luteal phase). I can see what they’re trying to do but I think at a first glance it’s confusing. Furthermore, I found it hard to differentiate between phases of the cycle in calendar view as they match branding colours and are similar hues. I did like that you can browse by phase in the library though.
As far as I can see the app is free of gendered language and the brand post trans-inclusive content on awareness days, which is a start. They have a ‘Happy Hormones Interview’ segment on Instagram where they host lives, it looks like it’s only cisgender women who are involved though.
Does it contribute to period stigma? No, it does a great job normalising taking note of how we feel at each point of the cycle.
Final thoughts: It’s a pretty good app, especially if you like aesthetically pleasing ones.
Period Tracker Period Calendar
This app really confused me. At a first glance, it is hugely infantilising and ‘cutesy’. There is a cartoon creature you find on a kids app on the homepage. After testing out the tracking options I was surprised to see an option to track cervix position as well as a range of different answers. You can track the position, texture and status i.e. open/closed. This is arguably the most advanced tracking option on the list for the cervix alone!
The content lacks cohesion, you can find one topic focusing on trying to conceive and somebody discussing classmates below. My guess is they wanted the app to be one somebody can use throughout the life cycle, but it doesn’t quite work. I couldn’t find a lot that reflected my personal experiences as a nearly 30 something.
However, I was pleasantly surprised by the self care tab the app has. There’s a range of guided relaxing activities you can do such as meditation and stretching. There is also a decent range of educational content on there and was surprised at how much was free. The app also has some soundscapes available you can unwind to.
Does it contribute to period stigma? Not that I can see, no.
Final thoughts: It’s quite basic, you’d probably be better off using Flo if you want something to see you through each stage of your life.
This was one of the few apps on the list I had never heard of. There is a good range of tracking options, particularly for fluid. One of the things you can track is state of mind, which I really liked. There is also a pill tracker for those who use the contraceptive pill for birth control, you can input options like ‘missed’, ‘double’ and ‘late’.
Aside from these few highlights, the app is probably the most basic on the list. There is an option to read blogs but nothing appeared when I tried. There is an option to add a daughter or sister’s cycle but it is buggy. The reporting tab gives you an overview of different aspects like mood, cycle length and so on. It also has the ability to track your step count.
Ultimately, it feels like the beginnings of a good app and feels abandoned. The developer has other health apps, so I guess that’s where their efforts are focused.
Does it contribute to period stigma? No, but it’s not inclusive.
Final thoughts: Download another app!
I think technology has come a long way since I first started tracking my cycle and I am pleased to say that some of these apps took me by surprise. I do feel like there is still some way to go and that sadly apps that are vocal about being inclusive are far and few between.