Cycle Charting: Paper vs App

Isn’t technology just amazing these days? I still sometimes become over awed with Skype as I remember the concept of the internet and television phone calls as a futuristic idea from my childhood.  I just think it is incredible that I can talk to people on the other side of the world, live and in real time.

But how is technology affecting our cycles?  You can get apps telling you almost anything these days.  In all honesty, there are so many period tracking, ovulation predictor and fertility monitoring apps out there, many of my clients are coming to me feeling confused.

Apps can be a quick and easy way to gather and store your information, but often they are hard to read, difficult to understand and follow some slightly odd rules.  So what do I advise?

When You Are Starting Out On Your Charting Journey

Charting if an art and a science, it takes a real skill to understand and chart your cycle accurately.  And a whole new skill level to understand what it means.  It is so tricky at first, you need to make copious notes until you start to see what patterns emerge that are particular to you.

For this reason, I like all my charting clients to start with pen and paper.  This way you can learn where to place the cover line, and what extra bits you need to pay attention to and make notes on your chart for different signs until you feel you understand what parameters they fit under.

It is also the only way you really learn to gain confidence in your skills in interpreting the chart.  This is an important part of the process, understanding what your chart is telling you.

Moving On To A Charting App

Some people find that once they know how they want to fit their descriptions onto an app will move on to use one.  However, there are a few limitations that people should be aware of.

1. Cover Lines

You may not be able to draw in cover lines or the app may place them in for you, but I have seen a few end up in some odd places.  If you are going to use an app, try and find out how it works and always impose your own knowledge over the top.

2.  Logic May Be Different

So many apps don’t have the required thermal shift on the right day, or they have the ovulation day different to what you may think.  Always stick to what you have learnt from paper charting in this case as I have had women say the app says I am infertile but I know I’m not.

3. Turn Off Ovulation Predictors

Check very carefully as to whether there is any kind of ovulation predictor with your app and turn it off! For clarity most apps will show you the start of the fertile window, which you should take as you are fertile. But when they highlight, next week you will be ovulating, this can lead to a false sense of security. Something such as travel or a stressful event may disrupt your cycle and unless it is an intelligent device like Daysy, it might not pick up that you didn’t ovulate. This can result in you believing you are fertile and trying for a baby when you are not and lead to disappointment. Or if you are trying to avoid pregnancy, you may believe you are safe based on the prediction, not the actual data confirming the qualifying thermal shift.

There are so many apps with built in predictors which are often inaccurate.  If you are especially using charting to avoid pregnancy, this could be a major issue for you.  Never pay attention to an app over what you have learnt.

4. Your Data May Be Being Mined & Sold On

Holly Grigg-Spall, author of the pill came up with a point I hadn’t even considered about using an app, especially if it is cheap or free.  Any products or service that is free, means that you are the product.  All the data you have entered belongs to the company to be used or sold as they wish, and it may not be to the people you want to have your data.

There have been a number of articles about this happening and in countries where you pay for your medical insurance, there is the consideration that if that data about when you are trying to conceive get sold to your insurance provider along with your name and social security number, in theory it could result in your premiums going up to cover the birth costs.

Read the privacy policy before downloading any app on to your device.

5. Do Your Due Diligence Before Using The App

I can’t comment on these personally as I have not used these apps, however, there have been news articles and accusations about various apps being inaccurate and changing the data in retrospect, eg saying a day was safe for avoiding pregnancy and after that day back calculating and saying it wasn’t.

These stories will also appear in web searches and another great place is if the app you are using as a social media group. Many of them have Facebook groups that have active amazing discussions on charting and also some with complaints. You can search in these groups to see if these complaints are legitimate and how the company fixed them if at all or if the users seem happy with their experience.

Decision Time

If after all that you think you have found an app you like, you know how to use it, how to turn off or ignore any predictor, and you prefer that to paper, I am happy for you, and love to hear your thoughts on which apps you particularly like.  Whatever keeps women charting and learning more about themselves is a big plus in my book.

But I prefer paper myself, it has some romance to it that an app never will. If you want to start your charting, you can learn online.

Happy Charting!

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