Plenty of us have a go-with-the-flow attitude about our periods. Once a month, we expect it, cancel a few Netflix and Chill sessions and stock up on Pizza rolls and catch up on Shonda Rhimes shows. Fortunately, the period-having individual of the 2015 doesn't need to leave the big question of "when is this happening?" up to chance or witchcraft or waking up to a world of cramps and bloody sheets. That's right: There's an app for that.
Actually, it's more like 1,800 apps for that (in the Apple app store alone) which proves that keeping track of the menstrual cycle is something that's really important to period-having people. Whether they're trying to get pregnant, avoid getting pregnant, monitor their stress and health or simply know not to wear those white pants -- no one wants to get a surprise visit.
MTV News also talked to a few of the people who swear by these apps and it always came back to one major benefit: They get a wealth of information about their bodies and some peace of mind.
Period Tracking Is For Everyone
Ariana Cember, who began using a tracking app this past year, told MTV News that it's super important for everyone to realize that keeping track of your period isn't just for people who identify as straight or as women.
"Period-tracking definitely provides relief, agency, and comfort for people that menstruate," Cember said. "The language that surrounds menstruation is so gendered but it’s important to reinforce the notion that not all women have periods."
Which is so true: There are women out there who don't have periods and men or non-binary people who do. Likewise, it's not all about avoiding baby-making.
"As a queer woman that does not sleep with cis-men, I luckily do not run the risk of pregnancy or a pregnancy scare from a late or irregular period, just prolonged PMS and more breakouts than usual. Period-tracking is important for people outside of the heteronormative spectrum and shouldn’t be read as a 'straight people problem.'"
These Apps Can Still Be Your Birth Control's Best Friend
Rebecca Tapio started tracking her period when she went off the pill in March, but said she started to notice that the length of her cycle wasn't as consistent: "I didn't want my period to be a surprise," Tapio told MTV News. "And I also wanted to make sure I knew when it was coming because I get stressed about it easily -- which, surprise, makes it come later.
When she started to notice -- through the app -- the patterns in her cycle, she said it was a lot easier to answer the questions and alleviate the concerns she had about what was going on in her body.
"Especially because it lets you track your mood, pain, discharge, and a wide variety of other factors that can give insight into your body, it really has taken a load off my mind."
Tapio said the app also helped her make some important personal planning decisions: Not only did the predicted "fertile days" calendar help her decide whether she wanted to have sex during those days but the calendar's warning about when her period would start made it infinitely easier for her schedule her appointment to get her Intrauterine Device (IUD) (since the implantation has to go down during your period.)
Tech Geeks And Doctors Agree -- Health Data Is Swoonworthy
Dr. Nathaniel DeNicola, an OB/GYN and senior fellow at University of Pennsylvania's Social Media and Health Innovation Lab told MTV News that the rise in patient-generated health data through apps is a really excited thing for the medical community.
At UPenn, DeNicola and his colleagues have studied the power of this kind of data and these kind of technologies in health fields -- and he said the future of medicine will absolutely incorporate big data -- but, ultimately, the most exciting thing is the IRL connections that are forged between medical professionals and the people they care of.
"It's exciting because it's a way to connect patients and their doctors," DeNicola said. "And doctors love data."
Ida Tin, founder and CEO behind Clue -- a popular tracking app option -- told MTV news that it was designed, first and foremost, as a "tool" that would do just that.
"A lot of women have questions like 'Am I normal? Am I healthy? Have I gotten pregnant?' A lot of questions about this part of life, when you start tracking, you start finding answers. That is pretty profound and it makes us more aware," Tin said. "It helps people to be more organized. -- it’s the tracking tool that allows you to enter data about your pain, skin and hair and other things that influence your hormonal cycles. When people understand what’s going on they are empowered to make good choices for themselves."
One feature Clue has that's particularly cool, Tin said, is that there's an informational component that helps women understand what all that data actually means for them (or it helps them know when to bring concerns to their doctor and how to talk about them.)
Clue, Tin said, offers a less pink and frilly interface to do all that. It's not about getting pregnant or not getting pregnant or keeping your cycle a secret, overly-feminine mystery -- it's about taking control of your body and considering your menstrual cycle a part of your over-all health.
"There is a lot of stigma around this still, but I also think we’re part of a global movement where more people realize that this is a natural part of life and a very important part of life," Tin said. "Tt’s a part of life and once you start having once more data about it, it makes it a lot easier to have these conversations -- Taking it out of this secret, pink and girly universe and just make it naturally integrated."
Though we've made a lot of progress in terms of period stigma, Tin said that the negative responses to periods are still all-too-real, especially among young women. But, she thinks having an app and having all of this information at your finger tips could do a lot to stop that.
"Just the idea that it’s gross, we have a lot of work to do. It really is a magical fantastic system. It’s the foundation of life, of human existence on this planet, it literally is," Tin said.
"I think this will always be private, it’s a private area of life but it’s not embarrassing."
For more information on reproductive health and making decisions for your body, check out It's Your Sex Life.