Pills, condoms, intra-uterine devices and . . . an app? Late last year the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a birth control app as a method of preventing unwanted pregnancy.
To be fair, Natural Cycles – which is now officially allowed to market itself as a form of contraception in the USA –is more than just a run-of-the-mill app.
The birth control system requires a basal thermometer with which users have to measure their body temperature and input the data into the app.
Using algorithms that track a woman’s body temperature and cycle, the app is de-signed to predict from the data when a woman is least likely to become pregnant.
This method, known as fertility awareness, isn’t fool proof (it’s 93% effective) and does absolutely nothing to protect against STDs, so the FDA move was controversial among doctors.
Natural Cycles isn’t considered a contraceptive in South Africa, but there’s certainly something to be said for tech that can help you track your menstrual cycle and understand your body a bit better.
The app and others like it are part of the rise in the fast-growing “femtech” sector – technology developed for women’s health. The market will be worth $50 billion (R711 billion) by 2025, according to VentureBeat. Whether you’re trying to figure out when you’re most fertile or just keep track of when to expect your next period, there’s an app out there for you.
There’s a reason this simple app is one of Google Play’s top-rated trackers. If it’s basic tracking and cycle predictions you’re after, Flo is a great start. As with all period tracker apps, you start by inputting the dates of your most recent period and how long they usually last, and the app churns out a generic cycle for you to plan by. But as you keep tracking dates and other data (such as your flow, mood and PMS symptoms) the app gets smarter, giving you more accurate predictions. But the best part about Flo is the Insights page.
Using data you’ve put into the app, it churns out interesting info tailor made for you, including bite-size explanations on everything from the size of your breasts to masturbation. Free to download from the Google Play and Apple App stores.
This highly rated app is for women trying to conceive. Unlike the other apps, this tracks ovulation rather than periods and gives you a daily fertility score, so you know when it’s a great time to get busy. You can also export all the recorded data such as periods and food onto an Excel spreadsheet or generate graphs on your fertility window. You can also customise the colour scheme. Free to download from the Google Play and Apple App stores.
The brainchild of US hormone guru Alisa Vitti, this takes tracking to the next level. It’s less focused on where you are in your cycle in terms of fertility (although it does offer a fertility mode) and more on the various phases of your cycle and how you can work with them.
For example, in the follicular phase, which starts when your period finishes, low hormone levels mean an increase in concentration and it’s an optimal time to be creative, apparently.
MyFlo also gives you advice on what food and exercise is best for each phase of your cycle, and tips related to what kind of data you input – such as how to beat blemishes, cravings and more.
The app can be a bit buggy at times, but all the info packed into the app is fascinating. Download for R27 from the Google Play and Apple App stores.
Eve markets itself as the “Cosmo magazine of period apps” – and you’ll quickly discover why. Along with the standard tracking system, Eve is full of quizzes, sex tips and tricks as well as fun Cycle scopes, which offer daily horoscope style forecasts based on where you are in your cycle.
“Take advantage of your rising levels of take-charge testosterone and get your finances in order!” Its cheeky approach to tracking is also refreshing. Tick “Do me now” if you’ve had a high sex drive on a given day and rate your flow from “light” to “crime scene”.
Free to download within-app purchases on the Google Play and Apple App stores.