First Impressions of the Natural Cycles App

I started using Natural Cycles to test how it works with the ŌURA ring. The Natural Cycles app has a lot of information displayed in different ways, and I understand the struggle of figuring out how to make that intuitive, useful, and simple since I used to work for a fertility app.

It has the typical layout with the menu button in the upper left and main navigation bar at the bottom. The first 2 tabs, Calendar and My cycle, also have tabs at the top of each screen to access different areas of those sections. I needed a few days to remember what was where, but they mostly make logical sense, so I got it eventually.

Onboarding experience

The onboarding process in Natural Cycles was pretty straightforward. I purchased the subscription in a web browser via the link in ŌURA’s email then downloaded the app on my Pixel 6 (then later downloaded on my iPhone 14 Pro when I got a new phone).

Natural Cycles asked the typical questions that period or fertility tracking apps ask about age, typical cycle length, average period duration, etc. The app also asked when my most recent period was, and when I provided that, it asked for the previous 4 cycles as well. I have all that data (and more), but they also give the option to say you don’t remember, which I assume would skip the additional questions about previous cycles. Of course, it also asks for permission to get ŌURA data.

You’re given the option to take a tour through the app, but you can also skip it. I took the tour and saw some pop-ups about where to find things and how they work. The app is fairly intuitive, so I could probably have skipped the tutorial without negative effect.

One thing I can’t stand in Natural Cycles

Natural Cycles gives users a star rating out of 5 stars.

For the rating, the app explains that users level up by simply using the app, but then says that you need to “add data” for “at least half of the time over 3 cycles.” It doesn’t specify what data needs to be added. Does temperature count? Apparently previous cycles don’t count since I have 5 of those with temp data from ŌURA. The app also says that users need to have a “stable temperature variation.” That’s not even in the user’s control. Why is something out of a user’s control a requirement to “level up” in this ranking scheme?

I also found in the menu that if you reach Pro Cycler status and then refer 10 friends, you become a Star Cycler. Ugh.

As someone who has worked in product management, I understand what they were trying to do. Many companies try to gamify their app experiences, but this is so aggravating. I’ll tell you why.

First, I shouldn’t be rated on how much I track in Natural Cycles. How presumptuous of them to assume their app is my primary tracking app.

Second, I can’t find a way to turn this off, so every time I open the menu, I see 2/5 stars and this rude “Junior Cycler” nickname. Luckily, that’s the only place I’ve seen it so far, but I get annoyed every time. I also got a pop-up notice the first time I used the app, but that was easy enough to ignore. I also got a pop-up notification every time I leveled up.

Third, encouraging users to use a paid app more is sus to me. Natural Cycles says they will never sell my data, but this pushy attempt at getting me to provide more data sure makes me wonder what’s motivating them to collect more of my information.

Finally, I hate (a word I don’t use lightly) that they have given me this low star rating and dubbed me a Junior Cycler — what an insult to someone who has not only been charting for over 7 years but also worked for a fertility tracking app for nearly half that time, where I was considered the in-house subject-matter expert. With my personal experience charting and my professional experience in this industry, I’m no Junior Cycler.

Some people like the gamified experience, sure, but why not give trophies for each milestone in the app instead? That would be a much better option than showing a rating that makes me feel like I’m lacking somehow and need to work harder at tracking.

I’m normally more gentle when talking about other people’s work than I have been in this section, but this needs to go away or at least give users the opportunity to opt out of it.

Calendar

I think this tab in the app is a bit of a misnomer since the default view is Today and is not a calendar, but the calendar is available in this tab, so it makes sense in that way.

Check out the slideshow below for screenshots of each section in the Calendar area.

The default page is where Natural Cycles highlights their prediction and whether the day is safe for unprotected sex or not.

This is different from most other apps in the fertility tracking arena, which focus on the temperature graph and chart instead. But charting isn’t the point of Natural Cycles — the point is that they give users a clear indication for safe/not safe days. I’m used to a more DIY app experience, but having this front and center makes sense for Natural Cycles.

Below the circle is a snapshot of the current week, which shows predictions for the week, including safe/not safe days, ovulation, and periods. Natural Cycles specifically warns users in multiple places in the app and multiple times throughout the cycle that these predictions can change, so users must check daily to confirm fertility for the day. In my screenshot, Natural Cycles shows that my ovulation was predicted for Thursday that week (more on this below).

At the top of this screen in the secondary menu, where you can open Month for the calendar view of the predictions and past data.

If you’re like me and want to see the actual temperature data, tap Graph on the far right of the secondary menu to view a graph of your temperatures in landscape mode. Previous cycles are available here as well.

At the bottom of this screen is more information about the prediction and a list of temperatures if you want to add them in another app. While I test ŌURA x Natural Cycles, I’m continuing to measure oral waking temperature to have something to compare it to, but when I stop doing that, I may use those temperatures for my other app — although that would somewhat defeat the purpose of this whole thing, so probably not.

My cycle

The My cycle screen has the same layout as Calendar with a circle at the top, but this one displays which phase of the menstrual cycle you’re in and indicates where you are in it.

Check out the slideshow below for screenshots of each section in the My cycle area.

The inside of the circle shows relevant information, such as which phase you’re currently in. The screenshot on the left shows “Waiting to confirm ovulation” with a little clock indicating where Natural Cycles suspects ovulation occurred.

This screen has an arrow right below the circle to jump lower on the screen, but I don’t find it super useful since this screen doesn’t have that much content. This isn’t the only place this arrow makes an appearance, and I could definitely go without it.

The bottom of this screen shows which phase you’re in and the most common symptoms added for this cycle at the bottom of this screen. It seems like you can add those symptoms directly to your app from there, but you can’t. Natural Cycles does provide a button to jump to adding that information though.

At the top of this screen, the secondary menu includes Insights. This is probably my favorite section. It shows a summary of data for the most recent completed cycle at the top, and the back arrow shows previous cycles. I can’t see the cycle that’s in progress, but this updates when I enter period data for the next cycle.

At the bottom of Insights is an accordion menu with averages of each phase, cycle length, and variations. In the second screenshot in the gallery above you can see this in action for my ovulation. I also really like that you can see confirmed ovulations and not confirmed ovulations here. Note: “Not confirmed” means the algorithm wasn’t able to confirm ovulation, indicating the cycle was probably anovulatory (the user did not ovulate); it does not refer to ovulations that are pending confirmation.

I’m a data nerd and basically all-in on the quantified-self, so I like seeing this information. I have some excellent statistics from Kindara, but Insights in Natural Cycles is a neat way to see the data in a different way; this is also super useful if you don’t have another app you track with.

Also on this screen is the option to compare cycles on a graph. Tapping that button brings the app to landscape view and shows the temperature graphs stacked on top of each other. This is really handy to visually see how much cycles vary from one another. Safe, not safe, and ovulation days are clearly marked with green, red, and an egg icon, respectively.

Today

I’ve been using Kindara to track my cycle for years and adore it! Not gonna lie, I used to be (among many other things) a product manager for them, so I’m pretty brand loyal. At the same time, I’m all about making life simpler, so I was genuinely hoping I could switch to Natural Cycles to keep all my data in one place.

Unfortunately, when I saw the data entry screen in Natural Cycles, I knew I wouldn’t be able to use it for more than just temperature and ovulation confirmation. Kindara allows tracking of extensive medications and symptoms, plus a lot of customization and data types that isn’t possible in Natural Cycles.

As of this writing, Natural Cycles allows users to track the following:

  • Bleeding
  • Vaginal sex
  • More types of sex
  • LH test
  • Cervical mucus
  • Sex drive
  • Skin
  • Pain
  • Mood
  • Notes
  • Emergency contraception & tests

The Today screen is where data entry happens and is easily accessible with the + button on the bottom nav of the app, but the design leaves something to be desired. I appreciate the darker color so the app doesn’t blind me when I open it first thing in the morning, but otherwise, it’s just ok. The screen is entirely in one color with white text. That text hardly has any hierarchy (section headings are bolded but that’s too subtle in dark mode), so it’s hard to skim and quickly find what you’re looking for.

In the middle of the screen, that up or down arrow makes an appearance again, which I initially thought would collapse or expand different options, but it actually just jumps in that direction. Again, it’s not super useful since the list isn’t that long. The lower left corner of the screen has that same arrow, so I’m not sure why it’s also in the middle of the screen.

The good news is, Settings gives the option to toggle some of these on or off if they’re not in use. I gave it a try for a couple days but ended up turning off everything except Bleeding (called Period Flow in the Settings) and Vaginal sex, LH test, Notes, or Emergency Contraception & Tests, which can’t be turned off.

Messages

The Messages screen is a cool way to preserve information in a pop-up that a user may have swatted away without thinking. I can’t tell you how many times an app showed me a pop-up that I reflexively dismissed only to be like, “Wait, what’d that say?!” immediately afterwards.

I found the little notification dot on Messages annoying when the app dropped what looked like blog posts in there. Luckily, those messages are easily to delete, and app settings allowed me to opt out of those. If you delete a message by accident, you’re given about 10 seconds to restore the message.

Now Messages is reserved for important app messages only, so it is a much more meaningful feature.

Learn

I expected the Learn screen to be an constantly updated page with blogs, but it actually looks like mostly static content, including guides and quizzes, but it’s occasionally updated. I haven’t spent much time in there other than reading the information they have about how ŌURA works with Natural Cycles.

It seems like a good place to spend some time for people who are new to the app and to the science behind this birth control method.

In closing

Overall the app is OK. It’s not great if you’re an advanced tracker, but it’s probably fine if you don’t want to customize symptoms or other things you’re tracking. The app is pretty expensive, especially if you’re using it with ŌURA. Check out Is ŌURA x Natural Cycles worth it? for my thoughts on the cost.

Check out the details on my experience with ŌURA x Natural Cycles!