There’s a whole wave of “femtech” companies that are looking to help people with uteruses avoid pregnancy, get pregnant, track their pregnancies, and even breastfeed. You could, if you wanted to, jump from app to app for every single step of the process. There are cycle tracking apps, pregnancy tracking apps — even app-connected breast pumps! It's a whole new world out there for people who want to keep track of and learn from the cycles and processes their bodies go through.
But before we get into the tech, it should be noted that people with uteruses have been tracking their cycles for hundreds of years. Before there was the Pill; before there were diaphragms; before there were even condoms, people with uteruses were tracking their cycles in order to both not get pregnant and get pregnant. The difference between now and then is that now we have these apps that make it simpler to track our cycles, give us more health-related info than a calendar could even dream of — and potentially misuse our data.
While many of these apps and services are “free,” they have to make money somehow. And just like Facebook and Instagram and other “free” online services, they often make that money by collecting and selling your datato advertisers. If you're OK with ads targeting you to buy chocolate when you're having your period, then no worries! But if you're not as into the idea of corporations owning entire "shadow profiles" of you that outline everything about your life — and using that info to sell you stuff — then it pays to be a little more cautious about who you give your data to.
But Lux Alptraum, sex and tech columnist for OneZero, says that the burden of making sure companies aren't misusing our data or being cavalier about security shouldn't fall on users, even though it currently does.
"So many of these privacy policies and terms of service (TOS) are set up to be impenetrable and to be so long that you can't read them all," Alptraum tells Bustle. "We're in a situation where companies are able to get out of basic decency and monetize our private data or use our private data in a way that we're not comfortable with, because they can give us a TOS that we don't have time to read and that would take an advanced legal degree to understand."
Alptraum points out that gaps in security and privacy "aren't necessarily malicious" and could be due to engineers who don't have the skills to make products secure or to companies collecting (hopefully anonymized) data in order to make a product better.
“I definitely don’t want people to avoid these products wholesale," Alptraum says. "But I think that we as a culture need to have a broader conversation about the way that tech is enabling our privacy breeches. And the fact that there is a massive gap between the expectations that users have about what we consider privacy and the expectations that companies have.”
Even with taking privacy concerns into consideration, it's undeniable that advances in technology have made a lot of life's tricky problems (like not getting pregnant or feeding your baby if you do) a lot easier to handle. With that in mind, here are six femtech products that can bring through cycle tracking all the way to postnatal sex.