Menstrual Health

Here’s Why You Should Be Using a Period Tracker App if You Aren’t Already

Ashley Lauretta

Photo: Getty Images/d3sign
It’s likely you’ve had at least one month where your period started and you were completely unprepared. While we can’t say that won’t ever happen again, there is a way to reduce the chance: downloading a period tracker app. The newest ones aren’t just glorified calendars, either—which is to say that they do more than keep track of what day and phase of your menstrual cycle you’re in.

Here’s how a period tracker app can help you see how your hormones affect everything, from your mood to sleep and more.

What is a period tracker app?

At its most basic, a period tracker is used to record your menstrual cycle, specifically, the fourth phase (aka menstruation), which typically lasts between 1–5 days). By entering those data points, the app does the rest, learning the patterns of your period—whether regular or irregular—giving you estimates of ovulation and when you can expect the different phases of your cycle to begin and end.

Yes, you could totally do that yourself on a calendar, but there’s something helpful about having the app do it for you and then send push notifications to give you a heads up about any pain during ovulation you may encounter. Or how to sync your exercise routine to your cycle. In addition to this, however, period trackers now also provide intel on fertility, mood and more, as well as keep tabs on any trends and health issues that may be directly related to your hormones.

Why should you track your menstrual cycle?

Beyond just knowing when to expect the menstrual phase to begin, having a regular snapshot of your period can help you manage your overall health. “Tracking your cycle is important because major irregularities in it can be a sign of hormonal, thyroid, or hematologic (bleeding) issues, especially if you have too much bleeding or bleed too often,” explains Whitney Casares, MD, a pediatrician and author of The Working Mom Blueprint: Winning at Parenting Without Losing Yourself.

Of course, it isn’t all just about seeing red flags; it can actually help you live a better life, too. Dr. Casares notes that knowing what phase of your menstrual cycle you are in can help you know when to get more rest or even when your body may benefit from some exercise.

“Your menstrual cycle certainly doesn’t affect every aspect of how you are feeling, but it can be more significant than most people realize,” agrees Stacie J. Stephenson, DC, CNS, a functional medicine specialist and author of Vibrant: A Groundbreaking Program to Get Energized, Reverse Aging, and Glow. “Knowing where you are in your cycle also allows you to leverage this information for better productivity, communication, and energy expenditure. You’ll learn over time when you are more likely to need some downtime and when you are more likely to have plenty of energy or want to socialize.”

What information should you log in a period tracker?

The very least you want to log in a period tracker is the start and end of the menstrual phase. To get even more out of yours, though, Dr. Casares recommends tracking this basic information:

  • The date you start and stop bleeding
  • How many pads or tampons you use per day
  • How heavy your flow is (mild, moderate, or heavy)
  • The severity of your cramps
  • Any nausea
  • Any other concerns, like lightheadedness or non-menstrual bleeding

Tracking every day can feel a bit cumbersome, but the more data you have, the more you’ll be able to look for connections between how you feel and what menstrual phase you’re in at that time. And if that feels like too much to handle, know you only need to really record when something out of the ordinary occurs, says Dr. Stephenson.

“I wouldn’t worry about tracking on the days when you don’t notice anything unusual, but when something new happens—even if you aren’t sure whether it’s related to your cycle—record it,” she suggests. “It could be something uncomfortable like a menstrual migraine or something great like a boost in libido or a high-energy, super-productive day. The more information you track, the more easily you can determine patterns and once you see those patterns, you will get a better idea of what’s coming and when.”

3 of the best period tracker apps to download now

Flo

Perhaps one of the most popular period trackers, Flo is available with limited free options and even more data that can be unlocked when you upgrade to a premium membership. Not only will you get generated predictions and insights about your menstrual cycle, you’ll also get content and video recommendations tailored to what phase you are in and insights into issues that may be affecting your body.

Download on iOS

Download on Google Play

Ovia Fertility

This period tracker is one of three apps under the Ovia Health umbrella, taking you from fertility monitoring to pregnancy and even through parenting. While seeing “fertility” in the name may scare some users away, it offers the same predictions about your cycle length as the other apps, all for free. What sets them apart is that some employers and health plans actually cover the premium version, giving you even more features including access to registered nurses should you have any questions about your menstrual cycle or health.

Download on iOS

Download on Google Play

Eve

If you don’t want to see direct mentions of your fertility and aren’t looking to get pregnant now, then Eve by Glow Apps—which has a number of other tracking apps, including one for people who are actively trying to conceive—is what you’re looking for. Like the other apps, there is a free and premium version, and it uses the data it collects from users to show you where you fall on the spectrum of  “Is this normal?” when it comes to symptoms and side effects of your menstrual cycle.

Download on iOS

Download on Google Play

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