“A good little tool to get to know yourself a bit better”: a qualitative study on users’ experiences of app-supported menstrual tracking in Europe
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Menstrual appsPeriod-trackingHealth-trackingQualitative studySmartphone
Levy, J., & Romo-Avilés, N. (2019). “A good little tool to get to know yourself a bit better”: a qualitative study on users’ experiences of app-supported menstrual tracking in Europe. BMC public health, 19(1), 1213.
SponsorshipThis research has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 675378.
Background: Menstrual apps facilitate observation and analysis of menstrual cycles and associated factors through the collection and interpretation of data entered by users. As a subgroup of health-related apps, menstrual apps form part of one of the most dynamic and rapidly growing developments in biomedicine and health care. However, despite their popularity, qualitative research on how people engaging in period-tracking use and experience these apps remains scarce. Results: An inductive content analysis was performed and eight characteristics of app-supported menstrual tracking were identified: 1) tracking menstrual cycle dates and regularities, 2) preparing for upcoming periods, 3) getting to know menstrual cycles and bodies, 4) verifying menstrual experiences and sensations, 5) informing healthcare professionals, 6) tracking health, 7) contraception and seeking pregnancy, and 8) changes in tracking. Our study finds that period-tracking via apps has the potential to be an empowering practice as it helps users to be more aware of their menstrual cycles and health and to gain new knowledge. However, we also show that menstrual tracking can have negative consequences as it leads to distress in some cases, to privacy issues, and the work it requires can result in cessation. Finally, we present practical implications for healthcare providers and app developers. Conclusions: This qualitative study gives insight into users’ practices and experiences of app-supported menstrual tracking. The results provide information for researchers, health care providers and app designers about the implications of app-supported period-tracking and describe opportunities for patient-doctor interactions as well as for further development of menstrual apps.