In 2018, Fitbit was one of the first names in wearable tech to add menstrual cycle tracking to its app.
Other brands have now done the same – such as Garmin, Samsung and, more recently, Apple.
Tracking your period with your phone isn’t new. Fire up any app store, and you’ll find loads of options for keeping tabs on your menstrual cycle, some focused on period predicting, others on fertility – apps like Clue, Flo and Glow have been popular for years.
But there’s an appeal in tracking your menstrual cycle within the same app as the other data from your wearable, especially if there are features that join up information about you, showing you how your cycle might affect your sleep, heart rate, energy levels, and more.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at Fitbit’s menstrual health tracking, how it works and whether it’s worth your time.
How to use Fitbit for menstrual health tracking
If you tell the Fitbit app your gender is female when signing up, you have the option for menstrual tracking, which Fitbit calls ‘Menstrual Health’.
Open the Fitbit app and hit ‘edit’ in the top right-hand corner. Find ‘Menstrual Health’ from the options and click ‘Add’. Period tracking is now on your main dashboard.
You’ll need to work through a series of questions. If you already track your period, this should be straightforward. Although if there’s anything you don’t know, you simply select ‘I’m not sure’. Don’t agonise over this information, as there’s a settings section later on where you can make changes.
Next up, you’ll be taken to the main Menstrual Health page, which has a standard calendar layout.
If you know the date of your last period, it’ll display that in the calendar, as well as your next predicted period. These predictions are based on the information you just filled in, so if you weren’t sure, this could all look funky—predictions will improve as time goes on.
The calendar is colour-coded and, handily, you’ll find a key if you tap the ‘?’ icon in the top right-hand corner of the screen. A pink dot means period, a pale pink dot is your predicted period, a blue dot is your estimated fertile window, and so on. It doesn’t take long to learn them all.
Tap back to the main calendar screen, and next to the ‘?’ icon is a small cog. This is the settings page where you can fine-tune how tracking works and amend any details you may have forgotten or got wrong earlier, like cycle length.
You can also customize what you see. For example, you can turn off predictions for periods and fertility windows.
This might be handy if you simply want to log your periods after the fact, or if you’re pregnant – there’s no option to pause the app during pregnancy, so you’ll want predictions turned off instead.
You can add and edit periods from the main calendar, which is a bit boring-looking but straightforward.
However, editing a predicted period is confusing – and judging from forums and Reddit, we’re not alone.
For example, if the app tells you that your period is due today but there’s no sign of it yet, you can’t go into the calendar and move it or edit it until the next day.
Granted, it might arrive later in the day, but there should be an option to make changes now rather than waiting, which is how similar apps work.
At the bottom of the screen, you can also ‘Log details’. Hit the ‘+’ icon and you’ll see a list of information to track, including period flow intensity, mood, and other physical symptoms like headaches, cramping and fever.
There are also data here that are particularly helpful for anyone using the app for fertility tracking.
You can add when you have sex, if you get a positive or negative ovulation test, and flag up the different consistencies of fluids.
It’s good to see a breadth of data that you can track here, but there are some niggling issues.
For example, you can track your flow, choose from spotting, light, medium or heavy, but that doesn’t track your period on those days. It seems spotting should be separate from the different options, but that’s not possible here.
Like all menstrual health tracking apps, the more information you add, the period and ovulation predictions become better. Over a few months, they became accurate within a day or two during our testing, and we found many other people online shared similar experiences.
One of the most useful parts of Menstrual Health is the ‘Trends’ tab next to ‘Calendar’.
The more information you add, the more you’ll see here, including details about your period and cycle length, the times when you ovulate, and graphs detailing all of the symptoms and information you’ve logged.
This section is helpful for noticing patterns over time, but it’s also invaluable if you have to go and see a doctor about any issues and they ask you specifics about your cycle.
What are the benefits of using Fitbit’s menstrual cycle tracking?
There are obvious benefits to using menstrual tracking in the Fitbit app. As with any cycle tracking app, you’ll be able to track your periods and get a heads-up when the next one is due.
If you’re interested in fertility tracking, you’ll also get insights about fertile windows and your predicted ovulation dates – although you might get better data from a dedicated app and device, like Ava, if you’ve been struggling to conceive.
Why use the Fitbit app when there’s competition elsewhere? Convenience. If you store all your information in one place, you’re more likely to use these features and, potentially, notice important patterns about how your cycle affects other data points, like your heart rate, your sleep, your energy levels, and much more.
It’s also cool to see data about your next period from your wrist if you have a compatible device.
What are the drawbacks of using Fitbit’s menstrual cycle tracking?
Editing periods within the app isn’t as intuitive as we’d have liked – especially compared to other apps, like Clue.
Fortunately, Fitbit is listening and making changes. An Engadget article published in 2018 highlighted several early issues and some have been addressed, like adding more symptoms and tracking longer periods – they were initially limited to ten days.
Others are still lacking, like the way you record your flow not counting as recording your period. This might seem like a small point, but anything that adds friction to tracking can be frustrating or halt a good habit in its tracks.
After researching what other users think of Fitbit’s menstrual tracking, we’ve found it’s a mixed bag.
Some say the app predicts their periods with great accuracy, others say it’s not as good as other cycle tracking apps and no longer use it.
It’s hard to make a definitive judgment about how good the predictions are as everyone’s body and cycle is different. But our opinion is that this is a worthwhile feature if you already use the Fitbit app and want all of your data in one place.
It’s also a good choice if you have a fairly straightforward need – a regular cycle and want to track your periods. If you have more specific reasons for cycle tracking – maybe you’re having trouble conceiving, or know you have irregular periods – consider an alternative.
What about data privacy? Since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, privacy advocates have warned data collected by period tracking apps could be used against people if they seek illegal abortions.
“We may preserve or disclose information about you to comply with a law, regulation, legal process, or governmental request; to assert legal rights or defend against legal claims; or to prevent, detect, or investigate illegal activity, fraud, abuse, violations of our terms, or threats to the security of the Services or the physical safety of any person.”
Google-owned Fitbit is aware this might be concerning for some users and has added a way to delete all historic period data from the settings page. This wasn’t an option before, you had to manually delete each period.
The choice to track your sensitive, personal data with the Fitbit app – or any app for that matter – is up to you. Be sure to read around and understand the implications first, especially if you’re living in the US.
For some people the convenience of tracking your health data with tech is worth it, others might not feel comfortable with the risk.
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