To celebrate XX in Healthcare Week, we are publishing a series of articles by or about women in healthcare. Scroll to the bottom to view the XX in Health video.
By Rhona Finkel
Who doesn’t know that, no matter what your need, ‘there’s an app for that’?
So it’s fair to assume that there are mobile health apps for women’s needs as well as for men’s–and it’s an assumption borne out by the sheer number of health apps aimed at women. There are calorie counters and yoga apps, smoothie selectors and workout apps, apps for the best sex foods (for real) and ones for helping you down 8 glasses of water a day.
But we don’t necessarily know two things about a number of these applications: are they really and truly unique to women [indeed there are men who do yoga and count calories–and who drink smoothies, too, now that I think of it, not to mention water]–and are they quality? Yes, there’s an app for that, but, we’re asking, is there a good app for that?
So let’s treat ourselves to small slice of the wide world of women’s health apps–but to ones that apply to women alone, spanning the lifecycle, and that have received responses indicating we’ve chosen something valuable.
Let’s Start at The Very Beginning
And while we’re there, we can think back to the beginning of what’s now become a significant money-making entity in the world of pregnancy and child-rearing.
What pregnant mom for years now hasn’t read Heidi Murkoff’s What to Expect When You’re Expecting, American’s pregnancy Bible, and either enjoyed it with her husband, or roped him in with the force of verbiage, as she read aloud utterly compelling passages while he tried to head out for a run?
And who hasn’t pondered the size of her baby in fruit and veggie terms thanks to Murkoff? Last week my to-be-nephew was the size of Bok Choy, which did lead to some eyebrow raising on my part, as, versatile an eater as I am, I wasn’t sure this was a familiar piece of produce, but fortunately he’s a butternut squash this week, so all’s well–if rather large–again.
Well now, free for iphone and Android, moms–and loyal dads–can get the best of the book on an app, Pregnancy Tracker from whattoexpect.com.
And what can’t it do–except rope in a still-resistant husband?
It can calculate your due date, and then do a countdown, provide little helpful tips (one of them is ‘treat yourself to a massage’–I think I need this app!; one is ‘avoid sushi,’ which makes me think my sister-in-law can keep it), and, in a feature that’s only for those very comfortable with their bodies, women can keep track of their expanding waistlines with the Photo Feature, taking a picture of that bump every week.
Then just in case hubby isn’t interested in discussing all-baby-all-the-time, there’s a Forum Feature, where you can connect with other members, including those that share your due date (not to mention a group of 35+ Moms To Be, or one of Albuquerque Parents or L.A. Parents. . .). You can read their posts and share your information, right from your mobile.
Given that the last edition of the book was 616 pages, I’d say you’re best off, now that you’re already schlepping around Bok Choys and squash and watermelons, going light, and downloading all that information into your phone. Plus you can entertain your husband with the fact that his baby now has fingernails, and now eyebrows, while the two of you stand smashed together on the subway, he with no prayer of escape.
Après moi, le déluge
Once that exciting, if rather draining, business of carrying a baby is behind us, it’s back to (a very sleep-deprived) life as usual, which involves, whether we like it or not, a regular menses cycle.
I can personally recommend imensies (Period Calendar), because I rely on it like a period Bible. Just when everyone’s irking me to no end by asking me, “Are you PMS?” (a question which should be outlawed, I do believe), and I’m swearing up and down I’m not, I sneak a little peek at my imensies calendar, and there it is, in pink and black–they’ve caught me again.
Imensies actually functions as 3 calendars in one. It works as an ovulation calendar, estimating your ovulation date, based on your period information and the length of your luteal phase. Then it also works as a due date calendar, in case the one you had in the What to Expect app wasn’t enough counting down for you.
Then, of course, it also uses period data to estimate your next period date–and prepare you with enough time for the unpleasantness to come. [It actually e-mails you in advance to let you know the day is coming.] You can see three months at a time easily on one screen, and can scroll for more.
And it’s also a real period tracker, in the sense that you can track your symptomatology also. For each day you can mark your flow type, from spotting to heavy, and can keep track of your mood with a wide range of emoticons. There’s a rating system for cramps. Bloating, headache, acne, backache, fatigue, breast tenderness, cravings, insomnia, clumsiness, and–could we leave this off?–sex, as well as a place to indicate whether you took medication to deal with your symptoms.
You can also e-mail your entire history to yourself for backups, something I recommend you do from time to time, and you’ll receive an e-mail report with the last 12 months. Additionally, if you set up an iMensies account (for free), you can add appointments, assumedly to the gynecologist, not the manicurist, although I suppose that would work as well–and receive e-mailed reminders.
A feature I found a bit fishy is the “Invite Friends,” where you can collect your friends’ email addresses and invite them to join on you on your hormonal tracking venture. It’s hard for me to imagine my friends finding this information compelling enough to want to ‘be invited,’ and I guess I’m still of the generation where I think it’s somewhat private–not like Words with Friends, or something, where everyone’s involved.
As a peripheral but nice addiction, you can tap on “Health News” and read articles about women’s health, although this isn’t updated as frequently as I might like. I suppose that given how much I use the app, and the fact that it only costs $1.99, I have some chutzpah complaining.
“The [hormonal] world ends not with a bang but with . . .
I taught for years in a school where the teachers’ lounge was about big enough for two whippersnappers. The other English teacher had just hit menopause, and would crank the air conditioning unit as low as it would go, which was, inexplicably, 62 degrees. While the rest of us shivered in sweaters we brought just for that purpose, she flapped about in front of the air, griping “it’s hot, it’s hot!”
Think how much better her time (and our school’s electric bill) could have been spent had she just had an app to complain to.
Given life spans nowadays, women can spend up to a third of their lives in these period with less and less production of female hormone, and the gradual disappearance of menstrual periods.
For $4.99 on the iphone, you can begin to track the staggering 35+ symptoms of menopause via mypause, the first app to deal with the issue.
Tracking is done daily via the Journal, where you record and rate the severity of your symptoms (there are three degrees of intensity from which to choose) and jot how often they occur. You can enter multiple occurrences a day if that’s necessary.
Then you can conveniently synthesize two weeks’ worth of data, to see trends in your symptomatology. Are you becoming even more irritable? Even hotter? Or has this whole uncomfortable experience at least helped you lose those last few pounds you’ve been wanting off for years?
There’s a learning component, too, where you can click on a symptom and find out why it occurs and during which stages of menopause you might expect to experience it. This also lists some of the solutions for each symptoms, which deserves a whole paragraph in itself.
The solutions are unbelievably extensive, and range from the common sense–quit smoking, hydrate yourself–to the more hippy ones–do yoga, meditate–to actual prescription medication, usually meant to treat depression (I caught a glance of Wellbutrin while skimming through) to hormone treatments, to a whole host of supplements and herbs, some of which I was familiar with, say St. John’s Wort, or Kava, and some of which sounded truly, well. . . Unique. Wild yams, anyone? Black cohosh? Dong quai (I couldn’t make this up, I wouldn’t know how)?
There’s a place for notes (mine would probably read, “what is dong quai?”), and a way to e-mail your journal to your physician before your visit (and if she’d actually take the time to read it, I’d like her number for myself).
Despite the rather unusual recommendations in the solutions part (kegel exercises anyone? Red clover?), the app is extensive and well-set-up, the designers have multiple ways you can contact them with problems, and the reviews are phenomenal.
A woman’s body works wonders, changing so much in a lifetime that one application can’t keep up.
But from carrying Bok Choys to computing luteal phases to learning to live in a world gone hot, if you ask, ‘Is there an app for that?” the answer is a resounding yes.