Apple's new period tracker shouldn't just be for "women"


Apple's information-packed WWDC 2019 keynote took place today, and among the newest features announced for their devices there's a whole new suite of applications users will want to adopt for their Apple Watch. Apple's WatchOS 6 will come with one particularly useful new feature for everyone who has periods: Cycle Tracking. The app offers anyone who menstruates a way to track their menstrual cycle and important information about fertility and other aspects of their flow that could help to plan pregnancy, document cycle irregularities, or aid anyone in figuring out when their next period may be coming.

“In watchOS 6 the Cycle Tracking app gives you a simple discreet way to visualize your cycle right on your wrist,” said Apple VP of health Dr. Sumbul Desai of the new feature during the presentation .

It does this by utilizing a daily log function that allows users to quickly add information related to their menstrual cycle, like their symptoms, details about their flow, how long their period has lasted thus far, results from any sort of ovulation prediction kits, and other elements of information related to fertility tracking.

For anyone suffering from irregular periods, ailments like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), or anyone looking to conceive a child, using the tracker this could result in users putting together more detailed and accurate reports of their cycles for their doctors to better form a health plan.

The Cycle Tracking feature isn't just for Apple Watch users, though, as it will be available via the Health app on iPhones with the introduction of the upcoming iOS 13. Anyone looking to be more proactive with their reproductive health can use the new feature, so long as they have an iPhone or Apple Watch. While there are plenty of third-party apps on the App Store and even the Google Play Store that offer similar functionality, this is the first menstrual cycle-specific tracker Apple has offered in one of its products.


While Cycle Tracking is undoubtedly a useful addition to Apple's cache of apps, Apple could absolutely work on the way it's marketing the feature. During the WWDC 2019 keynote, Dr. Desai and presenters continually referred to the app as a tracker "for women" and as something that "women will be interested in." This type of messaging is needlessly gendered, as anyone who menstruates can benefit from the app, no matter how they identify.

There are individuals who do not identify as women that still menstruate, after all, and by saying the Cycle Tracker is "for women," it's unnecessarily othering a whole group of people who could potentially find a use for the app.

Apple is typically seen as a leader when it comes to integrating health into its various applications, and for a company that's already at the forefront of health and fitness tech, there's no real need here to specifically gender something like a cycle tracker in what seems like a regressive way. Apple prides itself on being inclusive and diverse across its advertising and imagery, so this area should be no different.

Hopefully, despite the language used, the tracker itself will be an inclusive tool like the rest of Apple's products that all people with periods can utilize without the fear of stigmatizing or gendered language.