Thanks to technology, the days of marking upcoming periods with a red dot in our calendars are officially behind us. As the New York Times recently noted, there are now more than 200 period tracking apps available in the App store. These downloads (many of them free) take the guesswork out of your menstrual cycle by monitoring your periods, notifying you when you're most fertile, and alerting you to impending PMS. Some even offer additional perks like access to exclusive online forums, health tips on what to expect at different times of the month, and personalized horoscopes that are synced to your cycle. I downloaded about a dozen of the most popular apps available to see which work best. Here, my top four picks.
How it works: Of all the period tracker apps I downloaded, Clue was by far my favorite and the one I'll likely continue to use. Not only does it have a sleek, easy-to-use interface, but it also gets bonus points in my book for not having tons of flowers in the design (seriously, almost all the other apps were covered in pink and purple daisies).
To get started, you'll be prompted to answer a few basic questions about your health (date of birth, date of your last period, weight, height, etc.). After you complete the questionnaire, you can begin monitoring your current cycle to track your upcoming period, fertile window, and when you might experience PMS.
If you use the app only occasionally, you'll still be able to get a quick picture of your cycle. But if you log on daily and are diligent about recording your "data" (how many hours of sleep you got the night before, whether or not you exercised, etc.), Clue is able to convert that information into insights—so you'll eventually have a better idea of how your cycle affects the way you feel at different times of the month.
How it works: Like Clue, Eve asks you to complete a brief questionnaire about your health when you first download the app. Eve also closely resembles Clue with its cycle chart (that similarly lets you toggle between a circle or calendar view). There's also a "Feed" tab where you can log how you're feeling each day.
What really differentiates Eve from other period tracker apps, though, is its active community. There, you can connect with other users in a variety of different forums like "Love & Sex" and "Sexplanations." (Note: while online communities are a great resource for sharing experiences and getting ideas, we wouldn't recommend taking health advice straight from message boards like these—if you have a medical question, always be sure to consult your doctor).
Download it: Free on iTunes
How it works: Try not to let the slightly vague name and magenta flower logo deter you: the P.C. app has an extremely user-friendly interface and loads of handy tools. I like the quick-view homepage (above, left) that gives you a top-line overview of where you're at in your cycle, as well as the "Reports" where you can track your health more closely. If you're trying to conceive, the "Intercourse" report (above, right) would be particularly helpful for monitoring your most fertile days.
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Mood Horoscope and Period Tracker
How it works: Finally, if you're the kind of person who loves reading a daily horoscope, this app is for you. It's definitely more horoscope- than period-tracker focused, but provides personalized horoscopes based on where you're at in your cycle, making it a fun complement to the more cycle-focused apps on this list.
Download it: Free on iTunes