This is really the first post in what may become a series of posts directly related to women’s issues. And I’m giving fair warning right now – I’m not really going to shy away from some of the gorier stuff in these blog posts. On the plus side, this first one should be a little less gory since this is more product review than it is getting into the messy stuff.
To preface this, just a little background on where I’m coming from here: In early 2016 I had just about had it with the pill. First of all, I’ve never been great about taking medication at a regular time every day. I had even (temporarily) given the patch a go back in 2012, but that had irritated my skin and at the time it was super expensive as well. (You have to remember that this was before the ACA. The patch cost $36 with insurance, the pill cost $9.) Second of all, the hormones were not doing my body all that much good. So I started researching.
I discovered, through the website Bedsider, that there might be another option that did not involve taking pills or putting hormones in my system at all. Further research brought me to the website of the app Kindara, and I decided to give it a try.
This method is called the Fertility Awareness Method – or FAM for short. Kindara does a decent enough job of explaining the rules and suggesting appropriate research for learning how to do this. What they suggest is actually a very specific version of FAM called the Symptothermal Method. This requires checking and tracking at least two (suggested three) different fertility signs every day: basal body temperature (BBT), cervical mucus (CM), and the position of your cervix. Most people track at least BBT and CM.
Now, while I love Kindara, and especially love my Wink (bluetooth BBT thermometer that automatically syncs with Kindara), I began to wonder what other apps were out there – especially since other websites recommended other apps over Kindara. So below are my observations and thoughts about the available apps.
Since it’s the first one I tried, lets start here. First off, Kindara has its own bluetooth syncing thermometer, which is awesome. I love my Wink. But Kindara does have its issues as well. First – you’ll love all the pretty pictures the website shows you for the app – until you realize that they’ve really designed this app for Apple first, and Android is a secondary thought. iPhone gets all the cool features first. Other than that, the app is very simple and customizable. You can track whatever you want. On top of that, it really forces you to learn FAM on your own. You have to be able to read and interpret your own chart with this app. I liked this, but not everyone will. I will also point out that you can access your charts online with app.kindara.com, which is great if you want to use a tablet to show your charts to your physician during doctor’s appointments.
I’m going to be honest – I didn’t try this one. The reason here is rather basic. One of the reasons I like using the Symptothermal FAM is because it’s cheap. You can get a thermometer from the drug store for $10. The rest of the tracking is easy to do with no equipment necessary. Natural Cycles advertises itself as a “contraceptive app”, but then charges you $10 a month to use it. Kindara is free. Natural Cycles charges even more a month if you want them to send you a thermometer. Kindara has a nicer thermometer (though it does cost $129), but at least you only have to pay that once. However, if you want a slightly more powerful version of Kindara that outright tells you when not to have sex – well, this is a good way to go.
This app (founded in Berlin) is one of my favorites from a scientific standpoint – but I would not use it alone if you’re using Symptothermal FAM. It allows you to find patterns in your cycle, track different things – and very recently they added BBT and weight as indicators you can track. The design of the app makes it incredibly easy to track each of these things. It also makes it very clear when your period is late, which can be useful. This app also sends you emails every cycle to help you keep track of patterns that are appearing, and allows you to exclude abnormal cycles.
This is the Planned Parenthood cycle tracking app, and the format is a lot of fun. It actually makes recording data somewhat of a joy – even if it’s just pressing the bubble that indicates that you’ve been in a bad mood funk for most of the day. Not only that, but it has this dinosaur logo that makes you love it even more. That being said – this app is a lot better if you are tracking and using a hormonal birth control method, even if that method means you aren’t having a period. Honestly – I wish this app (and smart phones) were available when I first started the pill. I probably would have been more consistent with it. (Maybe. I don’t know that for sure.) However, like Clue – I wouldn’t use this by itself for Symptothermal FAM.
Love and hate this app all at the same time… Which is somewhat unfortunate. This is not a good app for preventing pregnancy, and I cannot stress that enough. I loved a lot of features of this app, including a fertility chart that looks a lot like the one Kindara makes out of your data. It also makes data entry very easy – much like Clue. So for a while there I really liked that it seemed like the best of both worlds. However, this is really designed for women who are trying to get pregnant – and it will not give you any warning signs that you might be having sex at the wrong time of month. While it pretends like it can be used by individuals who are not trying – all the baby pictures can get to you eventually. Now, if you really are trying to conceive – great! This app is perfect for you! And it has all kinds of great advice for trying to get pregnant.
These were nice, and unlike Ovia, Glow does allow you to use it if you are not trying to get pregnant. However, just like Ovia – that is its intended use. Glow, however, does recognize this and they created a secondary app called Eve. by Glow. I tried both, and just like Ovia and Clue, they made it really easy to record data. Eve. by Glow, however, did not let me record as much data (though it also allowed me to record some data that I would never have thought of that was not recorded in any other app). Eve. by Glow is clearly designed more for teenagers than most of the other apps (although I would recommend Spot On for teens as well). Unlike Spot On, Eve. by Glow will make you feel a like you are too old to be using it if you are a 20-something.
Long story short – if you’re simply tracking your period, Clue, Glow, and Spot On are all great. If you are using hormonal birth control, Spot On is awesome. If you are using Symptothermal FAM, though, use Kindara and do your research. Read the book they suggest, but also read this website from the UK. Follow the rules and make sure you have a backup barrier method, just in case. (If you want to pay a monthly fee, feel free to give Natural Cycles a try.)