Women's health apps that make the cut

Monday, June 17, 2019

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THE menstrual cycle is a bit tough to grasp for some females, at the beginning, and even tougher to keep track of as their bodies change and develop. Thankfully though, there's an app for that!

Femtech or female technology is the branch of technology that deals with apps that focus on women's health — from recording trends in their monthly menstrual cycle to calculating when their most fertile days are, and even monitoring pregnancies. In short, femtech has made being a woman so much easier.

But how do you choose an app that's best for you? Also, with a virtual monitor at your fingertips, do you still need to see a gynaecologist for a well-woman visit?

Consultant obstetrician-gynaecologist Dr Jordan Hardie shares a few ways in which women can integrate software into their lifestyles.

“When trying to conceive — most fertility apps will show when a woman is most likely to be ovulating. This is a very useful tip, as conception is most likely to occur during the fertility window,” he says.

“Women who have irregular periods can track their periods using apps such as Period Calendar, Flo, Clue, and My Calendar. This will help in terms of recording how long the cycle is. This information can be very helpful to the gynaecologist when offering treatment options,” he added. “These apps allow women to track not just when their periods start and end, but also to keep track of their daily symptoms, which can be analysed by doctors to spot trends, and be included in their medical records.”

He notes, however, that while these apps can be very helpful to women and their caregivers, they should not be used to replace a doctor.

“They provide a lot of very useful information, and may also be very helpful in pregnancy by providing expectant mothers with information about the developing foetus, but as helpful as apps can be, they should not be used to replace a doctor,” he said.

Cosmetic gynaecologist-obstetrician Dr Daryl Daley recommends different apps to his patients, based on their needs.

“For fertility, I prefer Ovia Fertility,” he shared. “It covers a wide scope of signs and symptoms, clearly states fertility windows, and also recommends you to get medical attention when symptoms are too great or cycle is too short or long.”

He also recommends Ovia for pregnancy, along with BabyCenter.

“Between Ovia Pregnancy and BabyCenter, I honestly don't know which one I prefer,” he debated. “Both are very good, but BabyCenter may have the edge because it goes beyond the pregnancy and into infanthood. Both apps make the doctor and patient interaction easier by providing additional information about pregnancy, nutrition, and open forums for discussion with other mothers.”

Female ob-gyns concurred that apps can be very useful to women's sexual and reproductive health.

“I do like the Flo app for period tracking and fertility,” shared consultant obstetrician-gynaecologist Dr Kimberly Martin. “It allows for symptom tracking, discharge monitoring, and it predicts your fertile days and ovulation day. It also gives helpful health tips for women on topics related to day-to-day issues. Once the patient becomes pregnant, it provides information through each stage of the pregnancy and what to expect.”

Dr Mandi Elliot, another obstetrician-gynaecologist, is also a big fan of the Flo app.

“First of all, it's free, and it is very helpful in allowing women to predict when their next cycle will start and also when they are ovulating if trying to get pregnant, or avoid a pregnancy, among many other uses,” she pointed out.

Internist Dr Samantha Nicholson-Spence says apps can also be used to monitor overall health and fitness.

My Fitness Pal helps to track calories for dieting,” she noted. “I use Garmin Connect with the smart watch to track calories burned, steps taken and so on. Both integrate for weight management.”

Dr Martin touted the Better Me app for health and fitness.

“It's my favourite for diet and exercising. The meal suggestions are simple and readily available. It reminds you and keeps track of your water intake and recommends exercises based on what your goals are,” she shared.

Dr Elliot pointed out, however, that although apps are helpful, they will not be able to tell you when something is amiss.

She said: “For example, if you're trying to get pregnant, the app may be able to guide you with ovulation days, but will not be able to diagnose other problems that may be causing the delay or difficulty in getting pregnant, or be able to tell you how to treat any problems. So having a personal gynaecologist is always best.”

— Candiece Knight

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