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This Period-Tracking App Protects Your Privacy in a Post-Roe Era

San Diego-based Orchyd app aims to revolutionize access to menstrual care nationwide
Cartoon Illustration of a doctor, the orchyd app, and orcchid flowers
Orchyd Period Tracking App

I grew up in the early 2000s, which meant that everything I knew about puberty came from an American Girl book called The Care and Keeping of You. Among other basics (from body hair to braces care), it taught me to track my menstrual cycle, counting days to know when to expect my period.

I was 12 when my first period arrived, and I dutifully marked it with a little red dot on a paper calendar. Years later, I ditched the analog method and joined a wave of people tracing our sometimes-irregular menstrual histories on smart-phone apps.

We no longer dreaded being asked, “When was the first day of your last period?” at the doctor’s office. We understood our bodies better, suddenly aware of details like the weird headache that always came two days before the first sign of blood.

Then Roe v. Wade was struck down in America, and everything got more complicated.

When the US Supreme Court overruled the constitutional right to abortion in June of last year, 22 states restricted or banned abortions. The decision also made a potential enemy out of a formerly empowering tool: the period-tracking app.

Orchycd app screen on a phone showing Period and PMS on a circular calendar

Because menstruators typically use these apps to record the start and end of periods (and sometimes pregnancies), if private groups or government organizations purchase or demand data from app companies, users’ information could be utilized to suggest that an individual has had an abortion. This is an especially big concern in states where lawmakers are criminalizing abortion.

Sisters Courtney and Morgan King launched their period-tracking app, Orchyd, in 2020. Based in San Diego, the app is available to users nationwide, including in states that instated abortion restrictions after Roe v. Wade was overturned.

From the beginning, the sisters committed to never selling their users’ data, but in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision, they tightened their policy, declaring their refusal to provide information in compliance with government inquiries or subpoenas.

The app also offers additional optional layers of data protection. Users can avoid making an account entirely, logging data anonymously on the app (a rarity in a world where so much as ordering takeout requires an email and password).

While the default setting is to store information on Orchyd’s remote database, a pop-up window invites you to enable local mode, which deletes your info from the database and holds it only on your phone.

The period-and symptom-tracking elements of the app are entirely free, because “my sister and I had a shared frustration about other period-tracking apps making you pay for premium features [to access data] about your own body,” Morgan says.

To help users make sense of this data, Orchyd implemented Blossom, a chatbot powered by ChatGPT. Using information logged in the app, this “personal assistant” can offer cycle and fertility insights and suggest medications or natural remedies for PMS woes (I learned that evening primrose oil may be a boon for period-related mastalgia, or breast pain). Conversations with Blossom are encrypted and stored only on your device.

But even the most powerful bot is primarily an information collator. It can’t identify an infection, diagnose you with polycystic ovary syndrome, or provide Plan B, which is why the King sisters built Orchyd MD, an in-app option to talk remotely with a licensed, HIPAA-compliant medical professional.

At $29 per visit, Orchyd’s service is less expensive than even the national average insurance copay (which is about $42 for a specialist appointment), so it could be a critical source of private, accessible healthcare to those with limited options, especially uninsured users.

A woman using the Orchyd MD app to have a Telehealth appointment with a doctor

After purchasing an Orchyd MD appointment, users can input their concern and request a doctor’s opinion at any time. Whether you are seeking a NuvaRing refill on your lunch break or concerned about a strange bump at 2 a.m., you’ll be connected to a board-certified doctor in an encrypted chat

window after a brief wait. (When I tried it at 5 p.m. on a weekday, my wait time was about 20 minutes, but the Kings put the typical delay at less than 15 minutes.)

Patients can text their doctor about symptoms and send relevant photos, and, if needed, their provider will send a prescription to their nearest pharmacy. “You can use your insurance to pick up your prescription, and it could be discounted or free,” Morgan says. For users without insurance, doctors will “look around to [find] a cheaper alternative to the medication you need.

There are seven Planned Parenthood locations in the city of San Diego alone. By contrast, the organization maintains just one clinic in each of the states of Alabama and Mississippi. Though those clinics can no longer provide abortion services, they still offer birth control, emergency contraception, and treatment for STIs, UTIs, and other infections—but only if you can reach them.

A 2022 study showed that one-third of surveyed people have missed taking their birth control on time because they couldn’t get their next dose. One in five uninsured respondents had to stop taking contraception because of the cost.

Telemedicine options like Orchyd MD may help knock down those barriers, particularly as the company prepares to partner with national insurance providers and launch the service in Canada and Mexico, further reducing costs and expanding access to millions more people.

Orchids, Morgan points out, are one of the most diverse species on the planet. “It hones in on the point that menstrual care has to be inclusive,” she says.

By Amelia Rodriguez

Amelia Rodriguez is San Diego Magazine’s Associate Editor. The 2023 winner of the San Diego Press Club's Rising Star Award, she’s covered music, food, arts & culture, fashion, and design for Rolling Stone, Palm Springs Life, and other national and regional publications. After work, you can find her hunting down San Diego’s best pastries and maintaining her three-year Duolingo streak.

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