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How the new period-tracking feature will work in iOS

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Apple in early June this year announced plans to launch a new period-tracking app known as Cycle Tracking that will allow users to record their menstrual cycles and receive notifications when they are fertile.

The new app will be live on September 16, when iOS 13 and WatchOS 6 (for Apple Watch Series 3 and later) will be available to the public. On the Apple Watch, it is a standalone app, while on the iPhone it is built into the Health app.

Together with this new update, Apple is rolling out three health studies that tie into the company’s focus on health:

  • Apple Hearing Study with the World Health Organization and the University of Michigan,
  • Apple Women’s Health Study with Harvard and National Institutes of Health, and
  • Apple Heart and Movement Study with the American Heart Association and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

You can enroll in studies through the Apple research app later this year.

In the menstrual cycle and ovulation tracking platform, Apple has slackened as compared to other wellness wearables. Fitbit launched its period tracking capability about a year ago. And 10 million users have leveraged the feature, the company said in data provided to MedTech Dive.​ Garmin also unveiled a similar capacity for Garmin Connect users at the end of April.

Menstrual cycle tracking is an important way for every lady to keep tabs on their health. This is because knowing when your next cycle starts not only helps you always be prepared, but it’s also useful if you are trying to conceive, or are living with conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis.

“Knowing more about your menstrual cycle gives you a window into your health – from simply ensuring that you’re prepared to understand your personal patterns and irregularities,” said Apple’s VP of Health, Dr. Sumbul Desai at WWDC. She added the new feature “gives you a simple, discreet way to visualize your cycle right on your wrist.”

“As a physician I know that understanding what’s normal for you is critical when making informed clinical decisions, and can really enrich your conversations with your doctor.”

Dr. Sumbul Desai.

Considering that there are diverse App Store alternatives to Apple’s Cycle Tracking, some have taken the heat in recent months for sharing personal data.

Back in February, the Wall Street Journal reported that Flo, a cycle tracking and reproductive health insights app that says it has more than 28 million active monthly users, shared information with Facebook when a user tracked a period or indicated the intention to get pregnant.

Shortly after that in a data privacy statement, Flo said that it had never sold any data point to Facebook as well as never used data from Facebook Analytics for advertisement, and added that it requested all user data be deleted from Facebook Analytics.

Although Apple noted in its presentation at the WWDC that information from Cycle Tracking will be encrypted on-device, and in iCloud in cases when users choose to back up their data.

How to use Apple’s Cycle Tracking app.

Apple’s Cycle Tracking feature is contained within the Health app on iPhone and Apple Watch.

It presents a visual representation of your cycle, with period days shown with a red dot, and fertile days represented with a blue dot.

Some of the days on either side of the period window will be lightly shaded red, to indicate possible period days. In cases where you have an irregular period, the number of shaded days will increase.

Amazingly it is also easy to understand Cycle Tracking from the second youll start using it. It uses straight-forward, plain language to avoid any confusion about what may be going on. There is currently an article within Cycle called “Understanding Your Menstrual Cycle,” which gives a brief run-down of any questions a user may have about their body, perfect for younger users who may still be getting used to the routine.

Users will be able to log key aspects of their period and fertility, including symptoms, and can be notified when it’s about to begin. This information will then be used to provide fertile window predictions, so users are better informed about their chances of getting pregnant.

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There’s lots to track in Cycle as well, such as breast tenderness, headaches, and acne. If you’re someone who experiences a lot of symptoms during PMS, your period, or ovulation, this is especially convenient to allow you prepare in advance.

At the start of your period, you can log your flow level and symptoms like cramps or headaches in the Cycle Tracking app. The app will predict when your next period will begin and when you’re ovulating as you log information about your cycle. Thereafter notifications on your iPhone and/or Apple Watch will be generated.

You can log symptoms from your Apple Watch

Fertility stats like basal body temperature or the results from an ovulation test can also be logged as the app uses that information to create a fertility window; the few days each month when you’re most likely to get pregnant. You can see an overview of your cycle in the Apple Health iPhone app, and you can log symptoms directly from your Apple Watch.

A calendar view will also be available so that users will be able to see predictions for their next two periods, based on data they have logged historically.

There is also a statistics page that compiles your typical period length, along with any cycle variations.

Apple’s Cycle Tracking follows a model very similar to other menstruation-tracking apps such as Clue and Eve, both of which use the data you enter to predict when your period will arrive and when you’re ovulating

Clue, which said it currently has 11 million users after becoming the first menstrual cycle tracking app to integrate into Apple’s iOS 9 HealthKit, has “always maintained a positive relationship with Apple” and welcomes “anything which drives the sector forward,” ‘femtech’ advocate and Clue CEO Ida Tin said in a statement emailed to MedTech Dive.

Other health updates for Apple Watch announced, include a Noise app designed to alert users in environments with decibel levels that could be damaging to hearing health, and new trends tracking feature in the Activity app that compares users’ short-term activity behavior to data from the previous year.

“Apple Watch is the most advanced and most loved smartwatch in the world.”

Apple boss, Tim Cook.


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