Fertility apps – how helpful are they?

54a7129f18583_-_elle-02-app-that-changed-my-life-h-elhTo use an app to keep track of our health has become extremely popular. Today there are hundreds and hundreds of health and fitness apps that try to motivate us to exercise or help lower our stress levels. Apps that measure the number of steps we walked, our heart rate, our average speed when we went for our last jog around the neighborhood. Apps that keep track of how many calories we did burn during the yoga class yesterday compared to the cardio the day before. As part of this trend, so called fertility apps are gaining popularity. These apps mainly work by helping their female users tracking their menstrual cycle, allowing them to pinpoint their ovulation, and the most popular fertility apps have been downloaded over a million times each.

RatingCriteria fertility apps

In a recent study lead by Dr Marguerite Duane, Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington D.C nearly 100 fertility apps were reviewed to determine whether they were reliable and accurate with respect to their claims of effectiveness at avoiding or achieving a pregnancy. The study was recently published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. Here a rating system was developed based on criteria used by Family Practice Management to rate medical apps. Each app was rated in a 5-point scale for 10 clearly defined criteria. Each criteria were then weighed based in their level of importance for avoiding pregnancy.

The researchers identified 95 fertility apps (via iTunes, Google and Google Play searches). However, since only fertility awareness-based methods (FABMs) apps were of interest for this study, only the 40 apps that fit the FABM criteria were reviewed. The study showed that 30 of these 40 apps could predict fertile days for the user, but the remaining 10 failed. A perfect score for accuracy and no false-negatives (days of fertility classified as infertile) was only achieved by six of the apps. However, apps that do not predict days of fertility can still be useful for experienced FABM users in order for them to electronically record their data.

In conclusion, the researchers did not recommend any user to rely solely on fertility apps to avoid or achieve pregnancy, but to first receive instruction from a trained educator in order to learn how to track their fertility signs and then look for an app that scored 4 or more on mean accuracy and authority in this review.

Table 2 Duane et al J Am Board Fam Med, 2016, Fertility App review

Fertility Apps from FACTs App Review July 2016

Picture of the fertility app “Glow”:  http://www.elle.com/culture/tech/tips/a14000/fertility-app-glow/
Picture of rating Criteria: http://www.factsaboutfertility.org/new-fertility-app-study/
Table 2 is borrowed from the article Duane et al 2016:  http://jabfm.org/content/29/4/508.full
List of Apps reviewed in the study is copied from:  http://www.factsaboutfertility.org/new-fertility-app-study/
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