The Ultimate Guide to Period Tracking Without an App

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Tracking your cycle is a beneficial practice that can help you better understand your menstrual cycle, identify when you’re most fertile, and note any irregularities that may indicate serious underlying issues. With so many free period tracking apps available, tracking your period is easier than ever. In fact, with a quick visit to the Apple or Google Playstore, you can download a period tracker app and get set up in minutes. But while the convenience of a period tracker app is undeniable, so is its risk.   

It’s no secret that Roe v Wade was recently overturned by the supreme court, causing a major upset among women everywhere. No matter where you stand on abortion, this is a massive setback in terms of women’s reproductive rights. Beyond abortion, many women are concerned their post-Roe privacy will be compromised as a result, with many questioning whether they should delete period and ovulation apps. 

In response to the supreme court’s decision, tech companies across the country are scrambling to alter their data privacy policies to save potential abortion seekers from prosecution. According to the Tampa Bay Times, millions of people in the US currently employ period-tracking apps to plan ahead, monitor their health, track ovulation, and get an alert when their period is late. But how could this information be used against you? To answer that question, you must first understand how period trackers work. 

How Do Period Tracking Apps Work?

Period or cycle-tracking apps work by storing and analyzing information such as sleep patterns, previous periods, heart rate, cervical fluid, and basal body temperature. With this data in hand, period trackers can make predictions about when you’ll get your period and when you will ovulate. Naturally, having this information allows women to not only prevent and plan for pregnancy but also to monitor menstrual symptoms and ultimately understand their bodies better. 

How Can Period Trackers Be Used Against You?  

NPR says privacy experts are growing increasingly concerned about how data collected from period apps might be used to penalize women seeking an abortion. How? Simply put, these apps can be used to show when a period starts and stops as well as when a pregnancy starts and stops. This has privacy experts concerned because whether subpoenaed or sold to a third party, this info could be used to suggest a woman has either had or is seeking an abortion.  

Lydia X. Z. Brown of the Policy Counsel with the Privacy and Data Project at the Center for Democracy and Technology says, “we’re very concerned in a lot of advocacy spaces about what happens when private corporations or the government can gain access to deeply sensitive data about people’s lives and activities.” That’s why many lawyers, activists, and privacy experts alike are recommending that women delete their period tracking apps immediately. 

Should I Delete My Period Tracker?  

Naturally, the primary question on everyone’s mind with regard to the Roe v Wade reversal is whether or not they should delete their period tracking app. The short answer is yes–especially if you’d prefer to keep your reproductive health and period information private. This is especially so when you consider the fact that period tracking apps have a bad reputation when it comes to privacy protection–and for good reason! According to Vox, one of the most popular period tracking apps known as Flo Tracker was recently caught sending data to numerous third parties, including Google and Facebook. 

How Can I Track My Period Without an App? 

As we mentioned previously, tracking your menstrual cycle is beneficial for several reasons and we highly recommend that all women make this a habit. Because while period apps are risky, there are several other ways to accurately track your cycle without disclosing your personal and highly sensitive information. After all, people have been menstruating since the dawn of time, with cell phones and apps existing for just a fraction of that time. 

Popular Science says even without an app, having a period doesn’t have to mean living in fear that you might ruin your favorite pair of underwear or pick the wrong time to wear white pants–although this is the least important reason to track your cycle. In fact, there are several ways to remain in tune with your body without relying on a smartphone or digital cycle tracker. For instance, the old-school calendar method is both reliable and 100% private. 

If you want to give the calendar method a go, you must first understand the way a period works. First, menstrual cycles can be divided into two parts – the pre-ovulation and follicular phase and the post-ovulation or luteal phase. These two phases are separated by ovulation itself where an ovary releases an egg into the fallopian tubes. 

When the egg does not find a companion, the corpus luteum or follicle that released the egg dies, signaling the uterus to begin shedding its lining, aka, the beginning of your period. 

Effectively Employing the Calendar Method for Cycle Tracking 

Now that you have a better understanding of how your menstrual cycle works, you can begin tracking your cycle on paper. Whether you choose a traditional calendar, planner, or the basic pen and paper method, you’ll start by jotting down the first day of your period. From there, travel back 14 days on your calendar and circle the date–that is your first day of ovulation. Once you’re on your period, try to take notes each day of your cycle regarding how light or heavy your flow is as well as the color, along with any other symptoms ranging from cramps and headaches to mood swings and a high sex drive. 

By tracking the existence of any symptoms throughout your cycle, you’ll be better equipped to discover patterns that can help you predict ovulation, PMS, and, finally, your period. Whether you use period tracking alongside traditional birth control or not, tracking your cycle is also an effective method for planning for sex and preventing unwanted pregnancy. 

Focusing on Women’s Reproductive Health in the Face of Adversity 

With the supreme court’s decision to overturn such a foundational law, many are left feeling panicked, wondering what’s coming next. According to American University, many of those opposed to abortion are also opposed to emergency contraception. In turn, there is a growing concern that women’s reproductive rights in America may further be compromised in the future.  

Rather than let this decision stop you from tracking your periods and monitoring your health out of fear that your data could be leaked and used against you, consider ditching the period tracking apps altogether. Once you’ve got the pen and paper or calendar method down, you’ll find it is much easier than you may have thought–and a whole lot more private. 

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