Taking family planning advice from a smartphone app might not be such a good idea, a new study is warning. The review of almost 100 fertility awareness apps found that most don’t use evidence-based methodology.
The smartphone apps are widely used by many women to plan or avoid getting pregnant. The research, by a team from Georgetown University School of Medicine, also found that many apps do include a disclaimer discouraging use for avoiding pregnancy.
The study was led by Marguerite Duane, MD, MHA, FAAFP, adjunct associate professor at Georgetown University School of Medicine and executive director of Fertility Appreciation Collaborative to Teach the Science (FACTS).
“Smartphone apps are increasing in popularity because more and more women are interested in using natural or fertility awareness based methods of family planning because they want to feel empowered with greater knowledge of their bodies,” says Duane, a family physician.
However, the authors write,
“The effectiveness of fertility awareness based methods (FABMs) depends on women observing and recording fertility biomarkers and following evidence-based guidelines. Apps offer a convenient way to track fertility biomarkers, but only some employ evidence-based FABMs.”
The apps in the FACTS Apps Review were:
[alert-announce]2Day Method Charting App Cyclendar CycleProGo Cycles FemCal FEMM Fertility & Ovulation Fertility Calendar Fertility Clock Fertility Pinpoint Glow Groove Fertility Pro iCycleBeads iCyclus Kindara Knowhen Lady Cycle Lady Timer LilyPro Menstrual Cycle Woman Log Menstruation & Ovulation mfNFP.net My Fertility MD MyFertilityCharts.com Natural Cycles NFP Charting NFP Project Caruso Ova Ova OvaGraph Ovatemp Ovulation Mentor OvuView Period and Ovulation Calendar Period Log Period Pace Pink Pad Pro Sympto.org Symptopro Woman Calendar[/alert-announce]
“Of those reviewed, 30 apps predict days of fertility for the user and 10 do not. Only six apps had either a perfect score on accuracy or no false negatives (days of fertility classified as infertile),” the researchers wrote.
Apps that do not predict fertile days scored high on accuracy only if they required women receive training in an FABM prior to using the app.
“When learning how to track your fertility signs, we recommend that women first receive instruction from a trained educator and then look for an app that scored 4 or more on mean accuracy and authority in our review,” says Dr. Duane.
Information about evidence based FABMs can be found at the FACTS website. Full disclosure– One of the apps reviewed, iCycleBeads, is based on a patented technology owned by Georgetown University that has been licensed to Cycle Technologies for commercialization.
Marguerite Duane, Alison Contreras, Elizabeth T. Jensen, Amina White The Performance of Fertility Apps Marketed to Avoid Pregnancy Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine