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Weekly Trend: HealthKit Faces Backlash Over Lack of Menstrual-Tracking Options

After reading and writing about Apple’s HealthKit, many women were excited to update to iOS8, after all the kinks were ironed out. The pretty little heart offset in the white square promised to “be the beginning of a health revolution,” as per Apple’s website. There were many articles on the apps that would allow us to get the most out of Health.

But when it came to connecting the apps women use to keep track of our periods,  that’s when many made a concerning discovery: No, HealthKit won’t keep track of menstrual information.

Although Apple’s HealthKit tracks things as seemingly arcane as “Forced Vital Capacity” (an important measurement to track if you suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, for instance), the system doesn’t really care about uterine activity. There is the area where you can tell the app your “Biological Sex,” but that’s about it.

Somehow, in all the beautiful design elements that went into making HealthKit, developers fails to integrate tools to help women keep track of their periods and/or their fertility. There are plenty of possibilities here: This would be a great thing to combine with one’s weight information, as some women gain weight during those tricky little days that lead up to their periods.

The response has been swift. Within days of HealthKit’s release, many have criticized the absence of tracking options for that segment of the population who deals not just with bleeding every month for 40-odd years, but also have to endure the pain and shame associated with it: In many parts of the world, girls on their period are seen as “dirty,” and being on your period compromises your education.

When it comes to tracking your fertility or a possible pregnancy, the omission seems less absent-minded and downright misogynistic. A recent piece in The Atlantic, discussing the unfairness of menstruating Americans being left deliberately out of the HealthKit promise, sums the lapse up best: ”There is no universal set of variables that would be meaningful or even possible for everyone to track. The idea that some comprehensive self-tracking app could at some point boil down the universal essentials neglects the fact that humans are different—not just in biology, but in needs and habits and interests.”

As of this writing, Apple has not released any kind of statement regarding period or fertility tracker integration to HealthKit.

However, it’s good to know that the world of apps dedicated to menstruation and fertility tracking is thriving. Women’s Health has a suite of apps for iOS and Android to fit many needs. Refinery29 breaks down the best period apps by their relative coolness. Among the coolest and most comprehensively designed is Clue, the awesome, beautifully-designed period-tracking app that is a brainchild of a German team. What sets Clue apart, aside from its pleasing appearance, is the ability to create reminders to pop up on your phone. You can be as cryptic as you want, and set all manner of different alerts: You can remember to take your pill or insert a new ring, and you can warn yourself that PMS is coming, if you find this useful. Clue is among the best apps at helping you monitor all aspects of your reproductive health without being condescending—or pink.

Finally, HelloFlo is perhaps the most irreverently funny startup to overhaul the notion that periods are a gross, shameful and negative part of life: They offer a service similar to other monthly subscription services, such as Birchbox. Originally aimed at girls getting their first periods, the business has expanded to tailor-made kits for different stages of life. Acknowledging that health is not a one-size-fits-all deal? That is pretty smart.

Maria Helena Carey

Maria Helena Carey is a freelance writer, photojournalist and blogger in Washington, D.C.