I’m writing this because of two reasons. I want to write is one of them. And I am not one who can teach herself to write about things that are not on her mind. I need to write about what concerns me at the time. And periods and period apps continue to concern me. So this is about periods and period apps.
But first, I wanted to write about a life lived with abnormal cycles. It strikes me that maybe most period apps are built by people who either don’t experience periods (so they read about them in manuals, and manuals, let me tell you, are soooo out of date) or they are among the lucky ones who experience what are traditionally normal cycles. A normal cycle, as the manual will tell you, means you get your period as part of a 28 day process, regularly and predictably. One of the most recent major fails of the feminine health category — the app called Natural Cycles, relies precisely on the regularity of this cycle. That the app failed so momentously might be a result of it not being very well made, of it being used in not the exact way it should have been or simply of the fact that more and more women are not dealing with a normal period or a normal cycle.
I work on a feminine care client and I read though thousands of online posts and replies on women’s forums and blogs and social media and one thing is becoming very clear. Women have incredibly irregular cycles, our perception of our periods does not match the “manual” and nobody seems to actually be paying too much attention to this. A lot of the women I read are on forums because they have seen their ObGyn and were sent home with ibuprofen and told to rest. It took me 12 years to get to a doctor who told me proactively about taking tranexamic acid as a way to reduce crippling bleeding during my normal cycle or when it happened our of cycle. I have gone through multiple health/fertility/cycle apps in almost 12 years and NONE were able to learn enough about my body to not produce the “You are experiencing abnormal bleeding. You should consult our doctor if this happens more than once” BS every single time I had an irregular period.
BTW, ALL my periods are irregular. Because I have a uterus that is prone to producing fibromas and I have had surgery to remove those, my cycle is never regular. I get periods every 2 weeks for a while and then no periods for two months. I have seen a doctor for 12 years and had second opinions from multiple others. There is nothing very wrong with me. Nothing they can do, no serious hormonal issues, no life threatening condition. But I will never get my period regularly if I continue to refuse to go on the pill, which I have because I don’t want to fuck with my hormones.
So, here’s where my problem starts. Why don’t period apps ask me about this information? Even if I was someone who did not see a doctor regularly about this, the mere questions (“do you have a regular cycle? have you ever experienced prolonged periods of irregular cycles? how heavy do you consider your period? have you ever been treated for fibroids, or PCOS?”) would raise some doubts and would signal that maybe I was experiencing something not uncommon. But as it is period apps respond to irregular cycles with cover-their-ass platitudes. “Check with your doctor”. I HAVE!! There is absolutely no excuse in the poor planning that goes behind these things. And poor planning it is because most of the big ones have seen huge communities mushroom in their backends where women ask the same questions they do on forums. The app fails those who need it most and they do what they have been doing for years now, go and ask random strangers “is this normal”.
I’ve recently been asked some questions about period apps. They continue to be basic. They continue to be about what’s the main worry. The main worry is apps still track fertility as if a woman’s only purpose is to make babies. The worry should shift to apps that are not inclusive of all women’s physiologies. Because I for one, don’t feel like my app knows anything about me.