If you’ve ever had any trouble with your period before–whether you’ve been late a few days, gotten it before you were ready, or felt like it lasted longer or shorter than it should have–chances are good that someone in your life has told you to start using a period tracker. Period tracking apps like Clue and Eve have a lot of devoted stans, each one seemingly more devoted than the last, to extol the app’s various virtues and benefits and ways in which it has made their life easier. Some people even use the apps in lieu of other contraception, since the apps are supposed to track when one is fertile and not, which means that they flag days in which someone is more or less likely to get pregnant. But, according to new research from the University of Washington, period tracking apps aren’t all they’ve cracked up to be–especially when it comes to contraceptive purposes.
This study, which surveyed 687 people, combined with data from 2,000 reviews of nine of the most popular period-tracking apps like Clue, Eve, Glow, Period Tracker and Period Pad, found that period tracking apps cannot be faultless, and as a result, are generally unreliable. Many users in the study reported that they didn’t feel the app met their “particular needs or preferences,” considering that there are a lot of reasons why one might miss a period or get it early that can’t necessarily be tracked by an app.
Other people in the study also said that they don’t like the hyper-feminine design–as in, like, pink, floral patterns, and butterflies–that comes built in to a lot of period apps, since it’s patronizing and doesn’t account for the fact that people who don’t necessarily identify as female might get periods and want to use a period tracking app, too.
But what does this mean? If you’re just using a period tracking app to anticipate when your period will come and go, that’s probably fine–it might not have on-the-nose accuracy every single time, but it’ll most likely be pretty close. But if you’re using something like Clue as your only form of birth control, you should….not do that. Besides (obviously) being ineffective for preventing STIs, human error and the inconsistencies that pretty much everyone’s body has ensures that it can’t possibly be as precise as you want your birth control to be. (Plus, you’ll be force-fed a whole lot of pink along the way.)
Instead, try and stick with the classics–condoms, birth control pills, IUDs, some other, more off-the-beaten-trail options, or a combination of a few different ones. It might not feel quite as glamorous as using an app that seems like it was made specially for you, but any of those options, um, work. And that’s about the best you can ask for.
Do you use a period tracking app? Do you think it’s accurate or not? Let us know in the comments!