I’m tracking. These words come out of my mouth more than they probably should. And yet, about 8 months after downloading the Clue period tracking app– the second period tracking app I have used, the words ‘I’m tracking’ make their way into conversations.
Long distance running is what made me more aware of my cycle and its effect on my performance. An app seemed like the easiest way to keep track of dates, and determine if increasing my running distance would affect my cycle. It also gave me a tool to be able to pre-plan races.
I had been tracking my cycle for years before I started using Clue. It was a broken phone that had me searching for a new app when I happened on Clue by chance. Out of the hundreds of apps available its simple white and red interlocking circle logo and name Clue stood out to me.
Unlike most other period tracking apps, which come in varying shades of pink and feature some sort of a flower, Clue is minimal and sleek, almost making periods and tracking periods chic. When I subscribed to their newsletter and read the email updates they sent, learning more about the company – the sleek, minimal chicness made perfect sense.
In a world where there are 5 000 terms for a period (aunt flo, shark week, having the painters in, lady time…) but very little conversation, Clue has given women a tool to track and discover the unique patterns in their cycle without euphemisms, butterflies and animated flowers.
In one little app, the Clue period tracking app allows you to keep track of your monthly cycle by entering data about your period, pain, mood, fluid, sexual activity and personal notes. There are 30 tracking options including exercise, birth control, weight, digestion, skin and sleep. Little information circles expand above each option and cycle phase to provide medically approved information and references, giving you a better understanding of your cycle and the things that affect it.
The more you track, the more accurate Clue’s algorithms can predict your cycle, giving you estimated dates for your period, fertile window and even PMS. The more you track, the more you start noticing patterns for yourself. Those breakouts that occur at the same time every month, times when you are more exhausted or more social and when you are ovulating.
Clue is more than a personal app, if you sign up for a (free) account, Clue uses the anonymous data you input not only to improve the app, but in academic and clinical research to help advance female health. Clue has research collaborations with Stanford University, the University of Oxford, Columbia University, and the University of Washington. They want the information in the app to be scientifically valid and allow women to take charge of their bodies.
Last year, Clue conducted one of the largest surveys on period perceptions in the world by tapping into their extensive international database. I filled in that survey and the results were displayed in this interactive map which shows responses from the top 20 countries. South Africa is not represented on the map, nor is any other African country.
This is hardly a shock.
According to Project Dignity, 7 million school girls in South Africa don’t have access to sanitary pads and many girls find themselves in child-headed homes where there is no one to talk to or educate them on sexual health. Period perceptions on the African continent are overwhelmingly negative and this contributes to gender inequalities in mobility and access to social capital resources (especially education where many girls are forced to drop out of school or miss weeks at a time).
That survey was the first step towards increased awareness and education about the importance of female health which Clue aims to move forward on a global scale. Perhaps next time an African country will be represented.
If you download only one app this year, make it the Clue period tracking app. There’s something to be said for being in touch with your body, learning what your normal is and knowing exactly when something isn’t quite right.