Red tide, Aunt Flo, shark week.The euphemisms we use to talk about periods can be funny, but the lack of straightforward science around women’s health is a major issue. Cue Clue, a start-up based in Berlin that gives women an easy way to track their reproductive cycles on their phones. Over two million users across 180 countries are smitten with the app’s smart, sleek analysis of their most intimate information.  So how is it helping women better understand their bodies?
Clue was founded in 2012 by Ida Tin when she realised her depression was linked to her use of the contraceptive Pill. She wondered why there was still so much confusion about women’s mental and physical wellness, and set out to create an app that would give her fellow females a complete, no-frills understanding of their health.
The free app tracks reproductive data – such as fertility, periods, and PMS – alongside general wellness, from mental health to sleep and energy. Recurring issues such as mood swings or tiredness can be understood in context, and ongoing data collection can be an invaluable resource for diagnosis. It cuts through the mystery and euphemism that surrounds women’s health, aiming to provide a clear picture of the body-related patterns which shape our lives.
“What we want to do is basically bring this whole amazing field of female health into the age of data,” says Tin. “Seeing how we can integrate all kinds of data streams from various sensors and so on and bring this all together and give women a really powerful way to understand what’s going on in their bodies.” 
Clue quantifies health to deliver a better understanding of your body
Clue (2015) ©
Mobile health is a rapidly growing industry, with global revenues projected to reach $27 billion by 2017.  Most health apps currently deal with wellness, but new developments are seeing increasing integration with medicine. Further down the line, it’s possible that m-health could connect personal health tracking to government schemes or health brands. 
Since women aren’t completely clued up about fertility, these apps are definitely a step in the right direction. A study conducted by researchers at the Yale School of Medicine in 2014 found that many women are unaware of baby-making basics; half didn’t know that prenatal vitamins can help prevent birth defects, and 20% were unaware that it becomes harder to conceive as you age. 
Clue can be used to better inform remote diagnosis or, if used in conjunction with health-monitoring devices, to provide a more accurate portrait of an individual’s health. And while period and fertility tracking is the second-most popular category in health apps, most of what exists doesn’t offer general health tracking and they often have condescendingly gender-stereotypical design.  Clue’s neutral interface is quick to use and inclusive of increasingly open gender identities, also benefiting trans individuals who may no longer identify as female but still need to track hormonal changes. 
There’s a basic need among women to understand their bodies and know more about it. When body awareness goes up, it creates a sense of being in charge and being in controlIda Tin, co-founder of Clue
Female contraceptives remain a fairly robust industry – globally, women will spend $23.3 billion on them by 2018 – but since there have been no major developments since the invention of the Pill, the potential for innovation both within the market is vast.  With the majority of Clue’s users choosing to contribute their anonymised data to studies at partner institutions – such as Stanford University and Columbia University – they can help advance research into fertility awareness-based contraceptive methods, which track ovulation to prevent pregnancy. 
Clue isn’t the only app in this space though. Glow is a fertility tracker app that’s now worth $6 million, Ovuline is a health app that aims to simplify fertility and pregnancy, and Wink helps women monitor and control their fertility by syncing data from an oral thermometer to an app.  Yet Clue sets itself apart by leading the charge for inclusive, accessible science for women. “There’s a basic need among women to understand their bodies and know more about it,” says Tin. “When body awareness goes up, it creates a sense of being in charge and being in control.” 
Biometrics may boost your chances when trying for a baby
Donnie Ray Jones, Creative Commons (2016) ©
Insights and opportunities
Clue targets busy Gen Yers, and with 46% of this group saying they want as much quantifiable information about their bodies as possible, fusing health with data makes logical sense.  “I just wanted a place to record exactly when my natural body (without a contraceptive in it for the first time since puberty) had periods,” says Beth, a 30-year-old Londoner who uses health tracking apps. “So if, further down the line, I wasn’t able to conceive I could go to the doctor and say ‘look, here are the facts, this is precisely what my reproductive system has been doing’ and they’d have enough data to work with to help me improve my chances of getting pregnant.” 
Female Gen Yers are the most frequent users of health and fitness apps, likely to spend 200% more time on them than their male counterparts. The goal, on top of wellness, is productivity; many in this generation see collecting personal data as a path to better self-knowledge.  Although Clue ultimately works towards better informing women about their own bodies, it’s taking this understanding one step further by utilising this information to benefit all women – a powerful tool considering one in seven couples struggle to conceive. 
But Clue appeals to this group on a much deeper level. The app’s design ‘for happiness’ sees mental and physical wellness as interconnected, in tune with Gen Y’s holistic approach to health.  Control over previously unpredictable factors such as mood and energy is a priority for young professionals, and health and fitness are seen as a gateway to a happy, successful life.  If Clue has anything to do with it, periods will never need to be a pain again.
Alex Quicho is a cultural researcher in London. She writes about tech, politics, and contemporary art.
Hannah Elderfield is a Canvas8 behavioural analyst and a psychology graduate from the University of Kent. Outside of work she can be found shopping, walking her dog or attempting to curb her addiction to Nutella, not all at once of course.
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