If you’re a dude reading my blog and you’re not interested in hearing about periods, suck it up. Periods are a part of regular life for women, and whether or not they’re annoying, messy, inconvenient, or squick you out, they are something that 50% of the population deals with (past, present or future tense) for about half her life. Some things out there make life with a period more difficult: pads, cramps, PMS, boys and men who go “Eww…you’re bleeding!” But there are a few things out there that make life with a period easier to bear: raspberry leaf tea, painkillers, menstrual cups, sympathetic friends, and a proper period tracking system.
Have I mentioned before that I’m a data nerd? Because I am. And when it comes to this aspect of women’s health, it’s almost necessary, because every time a lady goes to the doctor, they’re going to ask her the date of her last period. Even if it’s something dumb and unrelated like…neck pain. When I was a lot younger, I would go, “Uh…maybe 3 weeks ago?” But after I started tracking during grad school, I could pull up my phone and say “This – this is when it started and ended,” and it makes me feel like a rock star. The website that I used back then folded, and then I got a smartphone and got an app and it was pretty good, but it was overrun with ads and was way more focused on fertility to the point I wondered if the app developers just wanted me to get pregnant. So about a year ago, I went shopping for a new tracker. I tried another one that did not let me enter enough information (I like being able to track MANY different aspects of my cycle), and eventually found a website (I’ve forgotten which) proclaiming that Clue was the period tracker I was looking for.
If you look at their press page, you’ll see a HOST of interesting and reputable sources that could have been the one I read. As in, I could have found out about it from female-focused websites like The Mary Sue, Vogue or Self. Or from tech-focused websites like Wired, TechCrunch or The Next Web. Or from a traditional news site like the Atlantic, the Financial Times, or Bloomberg. Basically, there are so many news sites across the spectrum that I could have heard about it anywhere. And if you haven’t heard about it before today, you get to hear about it from my humble little blog.
The app opens on your “current cycle” view, and shows where you are in your cycle, giving predictions for things like period, fertile window and PMS. If you don’t get PMS, and aren’t interested in knowing your fertile window, both of those features can be turned off or on at your choosing. It also shows related symptoms as little blocks along the circle.
Within the month, Clue lets you track a lot of stuff. Not only can you keep track of bleeding and the different levels that occur over the course of your cycle, but you can track different kinds of pain, energy levels, exercise, sleep quality, sexual activity, and that’s just one page of options. If there are a lot of different things you want to track, they have so many more. Heck, if they don’t have the specific symptom you want to track, you can add your own.
All this information feeds into the analysis view, which lets you see where along your cycle you are manifesting specific symptoms. For example, I can look at see that I’m more likely to get headaches just before and during my period. If I’ve got a headache, chances are my period is coming. It’s pretty cool, and makes me feel very scientific in this whole process which is part of the point. Clue even gets rid of the pink, the hearts and the flowers that pervade most period tracking apps in order to make it as scientific a thing as possible. This means that showing the screen to your SO makes it less awkward and fluffy, and more of a serious health issue…which is what it is!
The fourth app feature is probably my favorite, and that’s the notifications. You can set the app to gently nudge you about timing related to your period. Want a couple days heads up that your period is coming? Clue can do that. Want it to remind you to track your symptoms? It can do that too. It can tell you when your period is late (or in my case, have forgotten to enter my data), when you’ll likely get PMS, when you’re fertile, and when you should perform a self-breast exam. All amazing and eminently useful things to be reminded about.
And that’s just the app itself. They also send you cycle reviews if you want them which tell you how your cycle lines up with averages for women your age, and things to look out for, and maybe talk to your doctor about. They also have an amazing newsletter that comes periodically (ha!), that’s fully of fascinating information related to women’s health (most of the articles are archived on their blog). It’s not just your standard “we’re awesome, please tell a friend to download us too!” marketing app. It’s the kind of information that makes you think. They also are committed to twin goals of advancing women’s health, and normalizing discussions (like this one!) of periods.
So – that “advancing women’s health” thing? Super important, but if you’re a privacy nut, you should know that they’re collecting your data and passing it along to researchers. BUT, if you don’t give up the data related to your period, you can’t accurately track it. They system is built to crowd-source information, and then tailor the most relevant parts to your experience within your app. The point is, you can be ridiculous about privacy, and keep a paper copy, trying to figure it all out yourself in an highly inaccurate way, or participate in a global data set that anonymizes your information, and gives you back way more than you gave to it. Because again – free app.
Listen, you don’t need to track your period. No one is telling you it’s necessary. But I will tell you that as someone who has tracked her period for YEARS, I feel more in control and knowledgeable about my health than I did before. Having an app that empowers me to view this whole process as scientific and normal instead of messy and something to hide is just icing on the cake.
All images except cycle review screenshot from Clue Press Kit.