A big part of my PMS course is learning how to keep track of your hormone cycle so you always know where you are within it. When I learnt how to do this (using the fertility awareness method) years ago I used good old fashioned pen and paper. There are specially designed charts which you can print off for free from the internet. They're designed so that as you collect your signs and symptoms you can see quite clearly when you ovulated retrospectively and most women get signs of their period before its due so it's easy to predict menstruation. After doing this for a few months you can predict both ovulation and menstruation with accuracy. But, paper is becoming outdated and we are moving towards digitising these records using apps. Period tracking apps are one of the most popularly downloaded apps out there. Most young women have one. But the market is saturated with them and they are not all equal in quality.
The apps attempt to predict when your next period will be based on the average cycle length that you put into its settings upon downloading it. They also attempt to predict when you will ovulate. But what algorithm they use to do that is not published and therefore can not necessarily be trusted and certainly can't be used as a contraceptive device. What's sad about this is that many make claims that they will increase your chances of getting pregnant. When in fact, this is unlikely to be true when they aren't giving clear information about how they are calculating ovulation. But that's not to say it can't be done. The FAM method is as effective as condoms for contraception and incredibly accurate at predicting ovulation. But these apps, while being great at collecting the raw data, can't be trusted for their predictions. I'd recommend learning how to chart the old fashioned way so you can then use apps to create charts but draw your own conclusions on ovulation dates instead. That's what I do.
I used the free version of this app for ages to simply track my moods, periods and PMS symptoms. It gives an unlimited quantity of signs, symptoms and moods you can record because it lets you design your own and then collates the information into fairly clear charts. You'll need the deluxe version if you're going to chart your temperatures and use it like a fertility app though.
This app is the creation of Alisa Vitti an American published author on the topic of living in flow with your cycles. Not only does this app chart your cycle including your ovulation and periods, it also offers advice on what foods to eat and activities to plan for each part of your cycle. It also has additional courses you can purchase inside the app to help you overcome certain symptoms naturally. One of my favourite features of this app is that it will send your partner automatic emails giving him an update about how you'll be feeling that week thanks to your hormones. My main issue with this app is the precision of the different phases. While it's nice to think each phase of a woman's cycle is an even length this is rarely the case in practice. Therefore this app is constantly telling you what you should be doing but possibly at the wrong time. I also find the symptom recording very sparse. Seems like more thought went into developing the informative side to it rather than the charting bit but maybe I haven't got a proper handle on it yet. I'm open to your experiences.
Clue leaves me feeling confused. It has lots of options for recording your symptoms but it doesn't let you put in the severity of those things. It's quite restrictive on what those symptoms might include. For instance, you can keep a record of your digestion but you can then only choose from four symptoms within that. I'd like to see the ability to customise what you record more. It doesn't let you record your temperature so it seems to work best as a period tracker. It will also remind you to take your contraceptive pill. Clue is best if you're using hormonal contraceptives and just want to track your periods in depth.
This is my current favourite. It records your temperature, cervical fluid, and symptoms. While the symptoms it records are a little constrictive it does let you write notes. I use my note section to write down something significant or strange or dreams. This makes the app brilliant to me. It integrates with fitbit (if I had that) and records how much you're exercising and drinking too. It predicts your ovulation windows but, as I already said, I don't trust those. I always go off what I've learnt in FAM as it's more precise.
This app has a lot to it. It has a community function so you can discuss your queries with others. It tries to predict your fertile phase but it doesn't record your temperature or cervix position so it must be doing it mathematically. This means it can't be trusted if you're trying to get pregnant or avoid pregnancy. It's got lots of nice tips about sex and sexual health though. I see it more as a brilliant sex education app for sexually active people getting to know their body.
I can't really say one app is better over another they're just different. Some can be used to keep digital charts for use in fertility awareness and others are grandiose period trackers. I think it's great that these exist, as symptom recording is the first stage to any herbal treatment. Without that you can't know where you're coming from and it's hard to know how quickly you're improving. But I am very concerned about the claims these apps make and the amount of people trying to get pregnant with them. There is no replacement for learning the fertility awareness method. Not yet.
fertilityuk.org to find your closest FAM educator