Period Trackers

Fact checked

By SheCares Editorial Team | Updated: Aug 05, 2020

With a wide variety of mobile applications that help us organize all aspects of our life virtually, ranging from favorite books to personal finances, it was only a matter of time for period tracking apps to flood the market.

With rising popularity and competition, developers of menstrual cycle trackers strive to capture women's attention with newer and more interactive features. While they are a useful and practical tool, period trackers do have flaws, making it that much more important to thoroughly research available options.   

Read on to learn everything you need to know about period trackers, including what they are, how they work, and what advantages and disadvantages come with their use.

Period trackers

What are Period Trackers?

Period trackers are mobile applications that allow women to register their period information to note their patterns. Surveys show that phone applications are the most common method of period tracking, with 47% of interviewed women choosing them over other methods.1

Many period trackers are available at no charge, although some may offer paid plans for additional features.

  • Basic features across most apps include period charting (period dates and their length) and forecasts regarding upcoming periods, ovulation, and fertile days.

  • Advanced features may include a detailed cycle analysis, advanced charting options (including period symptoms or intercourse log), user community, wellness articles and other resources, personalized support, and more.

Some of the most popular period tracker apps include Clue, Eve, Glow, and Spot On. A period tracker might also be included in a more complex health tracking application, such as Apple's HealthKit or Google Fit.

How do Period Trackers Work?

How do period trackers work?

To make their estimations, period tracker apps are programmed to use the same principles a woman would follow if she was using a manual period calendar and doing her calculations by hand. They include the following:

  1. Based on recorded dates of the last three to six periods, a period app will calculate the average length of a woman's menstrual cycle

  2. Knowing her average cycle length, the app can predict the dates of the next three to six periods by simply adding that number to the last recorded period date.

  3. Once the next period date is predicted, the app counts back 14 days from that date to estimate ovulation. Most apps will mark five days before and one day after ovulation as the fertile window, during which a woman can get pregnant.

Advanced options generally include a thorough analysis of one's cycle patterns in comparison to the accepted definition of healthy menstruation, including the following:2,3,4

Pros and Cons of Period Tracker Apps

Pros and cons of period tracker apps

Period trackers are highly popular among menstruating women due to numerous advantages involved in their use. However, there are several disadvantages to consider when choosing the right application. They are as follows:

Pros of Menstrual Cycle Trackers

  • Convenience. Women often praise period trackers for allowing convenient storage of all menstruation-related information in one place.

  • Reminders. With enabled notifications, a period app can send women reminders to log their periods, making it easier not to fall behind. It can also notify them about an upcoming period or nearing fertile window.

Cons of Menstrual Cycle Trackers

  • Privacy. Since menstrual cycle trackers are created by third parties and hosted online, there is a risk of women's sensitive information reaching unauthorized hands.

  • Accuracy. While period trackers' predictions may be accurate for women with regular menstruation, it may be difficult for women with irregular periods to obtain a reliable estimation. In fact, a study has shown that out of 33 studied period apps, only three accurately predicted the fertile window.5

How to Choose the Best Period Tracker

Since each woman's menstrual needs and personal preferences are different, there is no such thing as one best period tracker that will work for all.

Nevertheless, when trying to choose the best menstrual tracker for one's needs, there are several key points worth considering, including available features, cost, privacy settings, layout design, and accuracy.

Additionally, it is worth reading reviews online or asking female friends for more personalized recommendations. It is common for women to experiment with two or more period apps before finding one that suits one's preferences.

Key Takeaways

Period trackers are the most popular method of keeping record of menstrual patterns. They come in a wide variety of types and are equipped with attractive, interactive features. Besides storing period data, basic - and usually free - features also include estimates regarding the dates of the next periods as well as ovulation and fertile window. More advanced and generally paid features offer detailed cycle analyses, advanced charting options, and educational resources. Period tracker apps are widely praised for how convenient they are, allowing for easy storage of period info and a notification system to stay on top of one's journaling. Their criticism mainly revolves around privacy issues and doubtful accuracy, especially for women with irregular periods. Nevertheless, they can be a beneficial tool in terms of monitoring and understanding one's health.