An Honest Review of Fitbit for Menstrual Cycle Tracking

You may know that the Fitbit app has some built in menstrual cycle tracking features, but many people do not know that it has other features that may be useful for menstrual cycle tracking. In this article, I will review the pros and cons of the Fitbit app as it relates to cycle tracking for people who ovulate. For context, I use a Fitbit Charge III.

The most basic feature that Fitbit offers for cycle tracking is recording bleeding dates of menstruation and then displaying a predicted fertile window based on average cycle length.

The pink bar represents the length of menstruation. The blue bar represents a predicted fertile window. The flower symbol represents predicted ovulation.

The user needs to remember to input menstuation each cycle. Once it is inputted, Fitbit will generate the blue fertile window. This fertile window should NOT be used for avoiding pregnancy, as it is only based on cycle length and not real-time fertility signs like cervical mucus or basal body temperature.

Once menstruation is entered, it will also begin a countdown until your next predicted menstrual cycle.

Countdown until menstruation in the app.

Unfortunately, I do not find this basic feature very useful for anyone who has any cycle variation. Even though my cycle length has increased over the last year, Fitbit has not automatically updated my cycle lengths. The app does not appear to be very adaptive without user input.

In addition to tracking bleeding the app offers options for:

  • Mood
  • Plan B (morning after)
  • Ovulation tests (better called luteinizing hormone tests)
  • Cervical mucus (Taking Charge of Your Fertility categories)
  • Cyclical symptoms like acne

It is rather disappointing that the app does not include options to mark pregnancy when it occurs, especially since we know that this changes daily calories burned and heart rate, to name just two effected areas of the app.

A really cool feature that I do like is the ability to show cycle trends like flow intensity and cramps. The same screen that displays this will also let you scroll through all past cycle lengths.

In the settings of this screen, you can also decide to toggle off predictions. For people avoiding pregnancy, I do recommend either ignoring or toggling off predictions in the Fitbit app. The app allows you to choose your current birth control method as well.

Outside of the designed menstrual cycle tracking features, I want to highlight resting heart rate as a potential exciting thing to track for those who are not taking hormonal contraception. Why do you need to not be taking hormonal contraception to utilize the heart rate feature for menstrual cycle tracking? Hormonal contraception suppresses ovulation, and ovulation changes our heart rate charts!

To learn more about resting heart rate and the menstrual cycle, read my previous post here.

You can see my heart rate falling during menstruation around April 10th, and then rise during my fertile window and luteal phase.
Menstruation began when my heart rate dipped below 70 on this chart. Ovulation likely occured around the third raised heart rate in this close-up.

Heart rate in people who are ovulating is at its lowest point during menstruation, rises during the fertile window, and continues to be elevated in the luteal phase.

When heart rate begins to drop again, this is an excellent way to predict menstruation will soon occur. For example, I have been tracking my heart rate in Fitbit for 2 years, and I always bleed when my heart rate dips back down to 70 beats per minute after my luteal phase!

I do think this feature is worth tracking for anyone interested in a more precise period prediction than cycle length. If you have Fitbit premium, you can also find a setting for sleeping heart rate under restoration. This may be more steady than resting heart rate for some individuals.

Lastly, I want to address Fitbit temperature for menstrual cycle tracking. Unfortunately, wrist temperatures are not a compatible parameter for fertility awareness when it comes to avoiding or achieving pregnancy. It can be incredibly erratic. When we track temperature, we want the temperature as closest to the core as possible.

Fitbit does not give precise temperatures, instead it gives deviations from a range. I likely ovulated near 18, 19, or 20 on the photo above. While Fitbit did detect a slight shift, it is not particularly clear, and it dropped back down.

As depicted above, my luteal phase the previous month was extremely undefined, and I could not determine a confirmed temperature shift with it.

For now, I do not recommend Fitbit for precise temperature tracking. Instead, I recommend a basal body thermometer.

Conclusion

Fitbit offers some really unique options for cycle tracking, but it should not replace your birth control or fertility awareness method. The heart rate feature may be useful for identifying cycle phases, but the temperature readings are not suitable for tracking cycle phases.

6 Cycle Comparison: Marquette Versus Billings Versus DOT Fertile Windows

Have you ever been curious what your fertile window would look like in multiple methods?

In this blog, I show 6 cycles with various fertility signs and method interpretation including: the sympto-thermal method (Sensiplan rules), Marquette method, the Billings Ovulation Method, and DOT (a calendar method that was recently purchased by Clue app and is a new FDA approved birth control). I chose to include representation for only studied methods of fertility awareness: sympto-thermal, sympto-hormonal, mucus-only, and calendar method.

All charts are from the Read Your Body app, a flexible app for all methods that I highly recommend!

Some things to know before reading:

  • Marquette allows sex any time of day within their rules. My calculation rule lasts until the end of day 7.
  • Sympto-thermal method allows sex any time of day during first 5 days of menstruation, but the first safe day in the luteal phase must be used in the evening. My calculation rule is day 5.
  • Billings Ovulation Method allows sex in the evenings only and on rotated days in the pre-ovulatory time of the cycle. Days of bleeding where mucus cannot be observed are not allowed. However, since you can have sex any time of day post-ovulation with Billings, sometimes cycle day 1 is available if you have sex before bleeding occurs.
  • DOT allows sex any time of day within their rules. It automatically opens my window on day 7.

Cycle 53

Consecutive Fertile Window for Expected Abstinence:

Billings: 8 days

Sympto-thermal: 12 days

Marquette: 12 days

DOT: 12 days

General remarks: This is an extremely standard cycle in length and mucus patch (the average person will have a 5 to 6 day mucus patch when charting). I believe this is a great example of what methods would look like for someone of the average cycle length.

Cycle 54

Consecutive Fertile Window for Expected Abstinence:

Billings: 9 days

Sympto-thermal: 21 days

Marquette: 15 days

DOT: 12 days

General comments: My average coverline is 96.8 to 97.0, so regardless of earlier high temperatures and some illness I felt confident marking this coverline and temperature shift. Due to continous long, clear-ish mucus, my sympto-thermal peak was extremely delayed. Billings is a sensation focused method so I was able to mark my peak at an earlier time and have less expected abstinence.

DOT gave me a very risky day on this one. It is possible I could have been ovulating near the safe day. However, that would have only left 9 to 10 days for implantation and I had spotting, so whether this truly could have ended in pregnancy is up in the air. Even with well-timed sex, pregnancy will not always occur.

Cycle 55

Consecutive Fertile Window for Expected Abstinence:

Billings: 6 days

Sympto-thermal: 12 days

Marquette: 12 days

DOT: 12 days

General comments: This small fertile window in Billings might look scary to some, but it is not possible to get pregnant when the cervical mucus plug is truly closed. I have about one cycle like this every 13 cycles. I was also using the Kegg device during this cycle which is placed internally and reads electrolyte levels to determine the fertile window. It gave me the same 3 day dip for a fertile window, so I feel even more confident that those days were truly dry. I am missing temperatures on this one because my thermometer glitched and would not give me readings on these days. Sex day 1 was allowed because menstruation didn’t start until 5pm.

Cycle 56

Consecutive Fertile Window for Expected Abstinence:

Billings: 8 days

Marquette: 11 days

DOT: 12 days

General Comment: This was an extremely heavy period so I had no period days available in Billings. Even though the other methods gave me available days, I couldn’t have used them due to the pain, so ultimately the other methods didn’t really help out on more safe days.

Cycle 57

Consecutive Fertile Window for Expected Abstinence:

Billings: 10 days

Marquette: 14 days

DOT: 12 days

Cycle 58

Consecutive Fertile Window for Expected Abstinence:

Billings: 9 days

Marquette: 11 days

DOT: 12 days

General Comments: Marquette monitor missed my peak on this cycle. It misses peak on up to 10% of cycles. I relied on meeting LH rules instead of the monitor. Sex day 1 was allowed because menstruation didnt start until 1pm.

Reflecting on What’s Best for Me

I’m currently on cycle 59 charting, and I have tried a ton of methods. Right now, my ideal method is Billings and LH tests as a bonus marker.

While it may appear that Billings gives less safe days in some instances, what is most important to me is having the smallest consecutive fertile window. Having less expected abstinence actually makes me more likely to follow the rules. I was completely unsatisfied with only being allowed period sex in the sympto-thermal method because I have period pain issues. That means that I basically had no safe days at all in reality before ovulation with sympto-thermal.

I originally felt very enthusiastic about Marquette method. However, after 6 cycles of using the Clearblue Fertility Monitor, I realized that it always caught my LH surge after the cheap LH tests. In addition, it missing my peak even once is frustrating for the cost of the product. For that reason, I have decided to stop using the monitor when I run out of tests. I can use a 15 cent LH test and get the period prediction aspect (LH is my most steady indicator).

The DOT app tends to give me a risky cycle whenever I ovulate late and have a shorter luteal phase. I do not rely on this for pregnancy prevention. Overall though, DOT has not given me many risky ways. I use it for long-term period prediction, and it is the most accurate period predictor I’ve ever used for planning months in advance.

What to Consider Before Switching Methods

1. Why are you unsatisfied with your current method? Is it the amount of safe days, or is it the routine that you don’t like?

2. Do you have medical needs that could be addressed by another method?

Sometimes the grass isn’t greener on the other side, but if you are like me and can’t have period sex or don’t want to have period sex, methods like Billings without calculation rules will almost always include more safe days if you are dedicated enough to learn the method and chart it accurately.

Folks in irregular cycles like in postpartum time or with PCOS may benefit from more flexible methods without calculation rules

*DISCLAIMER: DO NOT TRY TO LEARN FROM MY CHARTS. MY CHARTS ARE NOT YOUR CHARTS.

Why did I choose to become a fertility awareness instructor?

Why did I choose to become a fertility awareness educator?

Fertility awareness is the sex education I wish I learned in middle school.

When women actually learn how their fertility works, they learn that getting pregnant is not as easy as the drop of a hat. We learn to appreciate and live with rather than work against our fertility.

Almost every person who I’ve seen read #takingchargeofyourfertility or take a FAM class comes out of the experience saying, “Why have I not always known this information? I wish I could have known this when I was younger!” Learning fertility awareness changed my life, and I know it can change yours too.

Do I believe FAM is the right method of birth control for every woman?

No, it is probably not.

But I do believe that every woman should be taught how to understand her own body. What she does with that information is up to her.

Fertility awareness gave me the ability to avoid pregnancy on my own terms. It gave my spouse more knowledge about my body and the changes I experience during my cycle. It has strengthened my relationship in more ways than I can name.

If you want to learn FAM, I suggest getting an instructor. Check out this website for a list of instructors.

An Honest Review of Pearl Fertility Kit

I tried the Pearl Fertility Kit. During my first kit, I got a little confused when the kit did not seem to line up with my fertility signs. However, I contacted Pearl Fertility and they were super helpful. They sent me another kit for free, and it worked perfectly when I tried it this last cycle.

Pearl is a product marketing to women who are trying to conceive (TTC). The product explicitly states that it should not be used to avoid pregnancy. The kit contained 15 follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) strips, 15 luteinizing hormone (LH) strips, and 4 progesterone (PdG) strips. It also included a few pink dye pregnancy tests. As I am not currently trying to conceive, I did not use these.

The app claims to open a woman’s fertile window by scanning the FSH and LH strips and giving you a fertility window from these results.

If anyone wants to try this product, I highly suggest tracking your cervical mucus, as good quality cervical mucus (eggwhite, clear, stretchy, wet) is what allows sperm to survive to meet an egg. Progesterone tests need not be used until at least 4 days past your peak day (the last day of good quality cervical mucus). Even then, some women do not see positive progesterone tests until as late as 7-10 days past ovulation. For more information, visit Proov’s website linked at the end of this article. By charting your real fertility signs, you could use these tests more wisely.

Overall, I thought the Pearl Fertility Kit was super cool. FSH strips are a brand new thing, and I have high hopes for them being integrated into a real fertility awareness based method in the future. If you have the money to invest in Pearl, this can be a fun kit to experiment with. Basically you get to see three main hormones of the menstrual cycle play out. Pearl graphs them for you.

If you cannot afford Pearl, do remember that it is free to chart cervical mucus and that this is always the best indicator for when to have sex when trying to achieve pregnancy. Without cervical mucus, sperm will never make it to the egg on its own.

Here is what my Pearl chart for this month looks like:

The highest pink dot is my positive LH strip.

Here is my Pearl information compared to my symptothermal method chart. In this chart, FSH equals Ferning since Kindara does not have an FSH category.

The Pearl fertile window is indicated by the green lights. It did start my fertile window on a day pregnancy was unlikely since there was no mucus. The blue hearts represent the fertile mucus where sperm can survive. These two fertile windows lined up pretty well.

Overall, I would rate myself satisfied with this kit.

One tip:

From the calendar screen, you can override what tests Pearl is asking for. I only suggest doing this if you are charting your other fertility signs (cervical mucus and basal body temperature) and know that something is not lining up right.

In addition to the strips, Pearl has spaces to track intercourse, your period, and pregnancy status.

Curious to know more about the fertility signs?

If you want to learn how to chart your real fertility signs to achieve or avoid pregnancy, read my guide to getting started.

Look for my next blog on using Proov progesterone tests.

Now Opening Enrollment For December 2019 Fertility Awareness Course

I am so excited to be offering this new course for those interested in learning the symptothermal method of fertility awareness. The method I teach is based on the rules studies by Sensiplan. You can read about this study here.

I found fertility awareness after 7 years on the pill, and it really rocked my world. When I started practicing it myself, I realized that it was a grave injustice that women are not taught about FAM. Practicing FAM has put me in touch with my body more than ever before. It healed some of the mind/body split that I had developed through years of resenting my period.

Moderating in Fertility Awareness Method of Birth Control, the largest English speaking, secular fertility awareness group on Facebook at 25,000+ members, lead me to becoming a certified instructor through the Natural Family Planning Teachers Association (NFPTA). Starting in February 2020, I am pursuing a certification through Bebo Mia as a fertility doula to support women who are TTC. Outside of the fertility world, I am training to be a librarian. I have taught at the college level since 2016.

I teach a secular form of fertility awareness including information on barrier methods (condoms, diaphragms, etc). The NFPTA method has the same temperature rules as Sensiplan. I teach cervical mucus, cervical position, basal body temperature, and calculation rules (the doering rule and minus 20 and 21 rules). My distance course is offered on Moodle. It is a 4-week self-paced course that includes video charting examples and information on charting during all life circumstances (perimenopause, postpartum, postpill, and TTC). This class opens in December. Your partner is welcome to ask me questions and take the course along with you.

If you already have charting experience from reading TCOYF or the Sensiplan file (3 or more complete cycles), I will extend a discount to you if you decide to work with me. Reach out to me to find out more. I will also likely be holding a live introduction to FAM session in early December.

The best way to get in touch with me is through DM on my Instagram @chartyourfertility or through e-mail by completing a form on chartyourfertility.com. You can also follow me @chartyourfertility on Facebook

A symptothermal method chart
An Example of Symptothermal Method Chart on Kindara

*Disclaimer: These methods only work as well as the user. Even with perfect use, there is still a .4% chance of pregnancy. Using a calculation rule is built into the efficacy, and ignoring calculations may result in unintended pregnancy. I will work closely with you so that you understand the rules, but it is ultimately on the user to follow them.

Shortcut charting, or “Wait… I don’t have to take my temperature every day?”

Many people come into FAM overwhelmed by all the data that they have to collect daily. It can be a bit of a turn off for those new to the method. They may wonder why they have to check their cervical mucus ALL day and then set an alarm on top of that.

When you first begin charting, it is vitally important to try to get the information down every day so that you can get into a habit and make sure that you are following the rules. Missing information will leave you with less complete charts that could leave you confused as to whether ovulation is confirmed or not.

However, once you have been charting for a significant amount of time and become confident, you can stop recording fertility signs once you have confirmed ovulation.

I am headed into chart number twenty-two successfully avoiding pregnancy with FAM, and I have been shortcut charting most of the time for about seven cycles now. I personally recommend confirming ovulation in 12 cycles before shortcut charting. This is so that you know how early you ovulate, your normal temperature levels, and how to tell whether something abnormal is going on in your cycle (ie sickness causing temperatures to be higher than normal or an abnormal cervical fluid dry up due to cold meds or some other medication).

Toni Weschler, author of Taking Charge of Your Fertility, recommends that women have several months of experience in the standard rules before taking any shortcuts. She offers some modified guidelines to follow and emphasizes that “contraceptive efficacy won’t be compromised as long as both your fertility signs have confirmed that ovulation has already been confirmed for that particular cycle.”

The Modified Rules

Temperature Taking

  1. You don’t have to take your temperature during your period. Toni explains that these temps may be unreliable anyways. However, if you have short cycles with early ovulation, you may need those temps in order to confirm ovulation. If you have a temperature shift CD12 or sooner, you will need some period temps in order to have enough temperatures to draw a coverline.
  2. You don’t have to take your temperature after you confirm ovulation with temperature rules. This means at least 3 high temperatures with a standard shift. If you have weak shift or a fall back rise, you must have the extra temperatures needed to fulfill those rules before you stop taking your temperature. Some people take their temperature again a day or two before they expect their period since it can (but not always) give an indication that menstruation is approaching.

Cervical Mucus

  1. You don’t have to check cervical mucus after you confirm ovulation. You will need to check until you meet peak rules (P + 3) and crosscheck this with 3 high temperatures before you can stop checking for cervical mucus. Again, if you have a weak shift or fallback, you will need to check until you meet the rules.
  2. From the day after your period until the day you observe peak type fluid, you should check cervical mucus continuously throughout the day and follow all rules for mucus checks. However, you don’t have to check cervical mucus multiple times a day once you observe peak fluid. If you observe peak fluid first thing in the morning, there is no need to keep checking. You have already recorded your most fertile observation for the day.

Those are the basic changes when short cut charting.

Here is an example chart.

This woman does not take her temperatures during her period. She begins taking her temperature on CD6 when menstruation ends. She checks her cervical mucus multiple times a day and follows the rules for checking until CD11. On CD11, CD12, and CD13, she observes eggwhite mucus first thing in the morning and doesn’t check again. On CD14-CD17, she checks mucus multiple times a day because she knows she needs at least a 3 day dry up (P + 3) to confirm ovulation. On CD 15, she has her temperature shift. CD16 is above the coverline. CD17 confirms ovulation because it is at least .4 F above the coverline. Ovulation is officially confirmed with both peak and temperature rules met. She takes her temperature again on CD26 to see if she gets a temperature drop indicating that her menstruation may begin soon.

People Who May Want to Think Twice about Short Cut Charting

Not everyone is suited to short cut charting.

  • Charting for Health: If you are charting for health, you may want to record your signs every day. Odd cervical mucus patterns and temperatures can indicate health issues. If this is your goal for charting, short cut charting may not be right for you.
  • Using Tempdrop: Tempdrop says to wear the device every day. If you don’t, it could disrupt the algorithm. As far as I know, they do not recommend short cut charting at this time. If you use this device, you may not want to short cut chart if you are worried about being at risk of pregnancy.
  • You aren’t confident in charting: If you are not confident in your ability to chart, you should NOT short cut chart. You should be 100% confident in your abilities before attempting this.
  • You are sick: If you are sick, you may want to chart more diligently and stay protected if you are uncertain about your chart interpretation.
  • You are only charting one sign: You NEED two signs in order to short cut chart. If you pick just one, you may be putting yourself at risk of unintended pregnancy. Ovulation must be confirmed with two signs.

An Honest Review of Tempdrop

Are you looking to simplify your basal body temperature charting routine? Is getting up in the morning just too hard to remember to take your temperature? Read on!

There are currently a few wearable basal body thermometers on the market such as iFertracker, Ava, and Tempdrop. In this blog, I will review the Tempdrop device. If you decide to purchase, use this link and get $10 USD off the device.

Tempdrop is a wearable basal body temperature thermometer that came onto the market in 2017. Rather than setting an alarm, you can simply put this thermometer on before bed. You wear it around your upper arm (and it may be worn in a bra as well). It needs 3 hours of sleep to determine your basal body temperature. The device uses an algorithm to find your true temperature, regardless of how many times you have gotten up or whether you had restless sleep this night.

This device is very popular with shift workers, breastfeeding folks, and other people who don’t get a regular amount of sleep and wake up at different times, or just to those who don’t want to set an alarm!

Tempdrop holds 24 hours of data, and it must be synced at least every 24 hours or you will lose previous data. After wearing it for 15 days (as of March 2020), the algorithm will kick in. (If possible you should back up temp with oral basal body temperature for the first 60 days if you are avoiding pregnancy. If not, use a different method of protection). By day 60, the device will only change and make improvements to the last 2 temperatures taken.

Once you wear it, you will need to sync it to an app to see your temperature. Tempdrop has its own app, but I highly recommend using Read Your Body (pictured below) instead! This app is customizable for every method and can be synced to Tempdrop.

My Experience with Tempdrop

Tempdrop is red and oral temperatures are blue! One perk of oral temperatures is that sometimes I can skip taking my temperature, while with Tempdrop you do wear it daily for best results.

I used the Tempdrop device for almost 12 months. I found my oral temps to be more predictable and more steady when observing my own trends over time. I get very steady or repeating temperatures with oral charts most of the time.

However, I am not a shift worker, so I will admit that I do not need Tempdrop like some people may do. I already have to wake up at the same time 5 days a week, and I don’t find it inconvenient to take my temperature on the weekend. My oral temperatures caught my shift earlier than Tempdrop did on two separate occasions. I have seen other people say that Tempdrop catches their shift sooner than oral temperatures, so this is really an individual thing.

For full disclosure, I ultimately stopped using my Tempdrop in favor of using a sympto-hormonal form of charting that doesn’t require temperatures.

I discovered that there were multiple other effective ways of charting without taking my temperature. If you really want to chart in shift work, irregular cycles, postpartum and you do not want to purchase the Tempdrop, I highly recommend considering learning a new method of fertility awareness like the Billings Ovulation Method (click here to learn about working with me) and Marquette method (click here to learn what charting with Marquette is like).

If you are dedicated to using a sympto-thermal method and can’t get accurate temperatures otherwise, and you have tried trouble shooting your routine (vaginal temperatures, pre-warming the thermometer before taking it, using longest stretch of sleep), then Tempdrop may be your best option. You can use my code for $10 USD off, and I will get a small kickback. Thank you for using my code!

Here is what the device looks like!