Menstrual Cycle, Tracking Apps Review + My Initial Thoughts on the Tempdrop

Disclaimer: I am not a licensed medical professional. I do have a BS in kinesiology and health, training as a birth doula, and research on my own about the topics in this post (as should you). As always I will link to the articles or sites where the information is coming from.

I love collecting data and graphs trying to find correlations between variables (not that correlation=causation). Coupled with my interest in pregnancy and birthing persons health, tracking my cycle (and my friends) and practicing the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) has been great for helping to satisfy my data collecting needs. I started tracking my own cycle immediately after starting my first period using the app Clue; I had already had it downloaded onto my phone. I had found Clue through the Starbucks app when they used to (maybe they still do this?) recommend apps and give some away for free (again, not really sure if I am remembering this right). Anyway, most likely because I was SO new to menstruating, I stopped using it after about 6-7 months due to it being inaccurate with its predictions. Of course it more than likely wasn't inaccurate, I was just irregular due to just having started my period. Fast foreword several years to my the second semester of my freshman year of undergrad. I had just started taking my now degree centered classes and was reminded of cycle tracking apps. I couldn't remember what app I had used before so I found one called Flo that I thought was it (obviously it wasn't). I have used Flo consistently to track my period since then but only recently have I gotten into loosely* practicing FAM, testing out different tracking apps, and using my Tempdrop (a wearable basal body thermometer, skip to the end to find out more). I wanted to, and still do, gain information on the basics of how to do FAM for fertility awareness and pregnancy prevention for use in my own practice some day. That brings us to this past fall when I started actually practicing FAM and using the Tempdrop but first a bit of background on menstruation and fertilization.

*I say loosely because I don't need to use it for pregnancy prevention (due to the whole being gay thing for those of you who may not know me personally) and as my partner and I are not trying to have kids at the moment, I do not need to closely track my ovulation for conception purposes. I am not a trained FAM educator, this is not medical advice, and you should do your own research (as always) before diving into a new method of birth control or other health practice. Though really, if anything, do your research on the pill if you are still on that.

Menstruation and Fertilization: The Very Basics

Your menstrual cycle starts on the first day of your period and lasts on average 28 days (mine is usually 30 or 31). There are 2 phases of the menstrual cycle, the follicular phase and the luteal phase with ovulation in between. The graph below is the best one I have found that shows the menstrual cycle in terms of what's happening inside your body.

The middle section show how your hormone levels change throughout your cycle, controlling everything that is going on. The top section shows follicles beginning to grow and mature inside your ovaries (this actually starts 2-3 cycles before they have the chance to release an egg during ovulation). When it is time for ovulation, the chosen mature follicle releases the egg from one ovary and it starts the decent down the corresponding fallopian tube. From the time the egg is released (ovulation), it has only a 24 hour window in which it can be fertilized (which actually happens inside the fallopian tube). This would make it really difficult to get pregnant if we all had to find some sperm on the exact day of ovulation but nature doesn't give up that easy. Sperm can live inside the body for an average of 3 days (but can be up to 5!) giving you a lot better chance of becoming pregnant whether by accident or on purpose with multiple inseminations in the days leading up to ovulation. After the egg is ovulated and the first 24 hours have passed, no amount of sperm will bring on a baby.

My Practice of FAM

The fertility awareness method has many different ways to practice it, the 4 main ones being the symptothermal method, the standard days method, the basal body temperature method, and the cervical mucous method. I use the symptothermal method but check out the link in the first paragraph for more information on the other methods of FAM. The symptothermal method is essentially a mixture of the other three methods but it is comprised of taking your basal body temperature at the same time each morning before getting out of bed (see how I get around this below), watching your cervix for changes in it and its mucous. If you look at the image above, you'll see that at ovulation your body temperature spikes and remains elevated for the duration of your cycle. This is what you're looking for to indicate ovulation but often the temperature rise happens after ovulation. This is why it is important to also monitor the changes in your cervix and its mucous. As you approach ovulation your cervical mucous thins and becomes stretchy (vs being creamy and sticky or nonexistent) and your cervix gets higher, softer, and more open (typically, everyone is different). There are other symptoms you can track including taking hormone level tests and noting your mood and emotions but I do not find it necessary for me. All of this information gets charted (search online to find a printable chart to track by hand and keep reading for a quick review of a few apps) and used to determine things like when your next cycle will start, when you ovulate, and how long your fertile window is.

The Tempdrop + The Other tracking Apps I've Tried

The Tempdrop is a watch battery powered wearable thermometer that tracks your body temperature while you sleep. It provides you with a basal body temperature when you sync it by learning you and your sleeping patterns over the first couple of weeks and months of use. I (and 2 of my friends) have been using the Tempdrop since late November and I really do not have any negative things to say about it. Being a shift worker and a future student midwife, I do not wake up at the same time each morning and I won't for a very long time. This device allows me to practice FAM and keep whatever sleep schedule I want. It is comfortable to wear and it took maybe 2-3 days to get totally used to wearing it at night. It is simple to use and you can go up to 3 days without syncing the data to your phone; it comes with its own app that recently got a new update. The app used to only display your last 30 temperatures but now it has the ability to track all the aforementioned variables in cycle tracking. I haven't been using it for very long considering it just updated maybe 2 months ago. Therefore, I do not have an idea of how accurate it is at this time. I do have one issue with the app since the new update though, it requires you to manually enter your temperature into the symptoms log. Because the app is made for the device, I feel that it should automatically take the temperature and input it into the symptoms for the day. Hopefully they will add that feature in the future since cycle tracking is such a new addition to the app. There is one app that inputs your temperatures from Tempdrop at the click of a button, its called Read Your Body. Unfortunately it is not free and honestly it is not my favorite app either. It is really basic in that it does not make any predictions for you; you have to know exactly what you're doing and how to read your chart. If you are experienced with FAM or do not want an app to predict your cycle, then this app is probably for you. Read Your Body also does not allow you to input things like emotions and mood as well as other physical symptoms that you may experience during you cycle but it does have a 'journal' section where you can keep track of whatever you wish. Flo, the app I have been using to track my cycle for several years now, is perfect if you are new to cycle tracking and want to just get started because it is entirely free. It allows you to track all the cycle symptoms (with the exception of cervical height, texture, and openness), charts it all for you, and provides accurate predictions as far as I can tell. Unfortunately they have recently been bought by Google and found out for selling user data without consent so it has a tarnished reputation for me now. This brings us to the final and favorite cycle tracking app I will talk about, Fertility Friend. Fertility Friend has everything you could want out of a cycle tracking app. This one is also a paid app but personally I think it is worth it. I find the chart easiest to ready out of all the charting apps I have talked about and the predictions are seemingly accurate as well. It gives you a written report that you can check everyday if you have a hard time reading the chart. You do have to manually input your temperature but it is totally worth it. Between Flo and Fertility Friend I do not know which one is more accurate as I am not taking any hormone tests to back up the other data I am gathering. To sum up all the apps I've tried:

  1. Clue I do not know a lot about because I used it very briefly many years ago but one of my friends does use it.

  2. Read Your Body is essentially an electronic version of a piece of paper with the ability to pull and update your Tempdrop data with the push of a button. ($14.99/yr)

  3. The Tempdrop app is good because it allows you to track everything you would want to. I don't feel I have used it long enough to speak to the accuracy of its predictions.

  4. Flo is wonderful because it is free and provides accurate cycle predictions but they did make some mistakes by selling user data without consent.

  5. Fertility Friend is my favorite if you have the money to spend on a subscription ($45/yr) because it allows you to track anything you may want to when trying to avoid or become pregnant along with providing seemingly very accurate predictions.

I hope you found at least some of this information useful! Please like, comment, and share if you're into that kind of thing. And again, please remember, I do not perfectly practice FAM nor am I a licensed educator. Always do your own research and maybe consult a professional before adopting any new health practice.

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