If you’re one of the millions of women relying on a fertility app to track your cycle, you might want to reconsider.
A new study out of Georgetown University’s School of Medicine has analysed over 95 of the most popular cycle trackers and found that the majority of them are unreliable when it comes to birth control.
Over 50 of the more popular downloads for women’s fertility were discounted after researchers found that they included disclaimers which advised users not to rely on the app as means of preventing pregnancy – 10 of the apps did not attempt to predict a women’s most fertile days.
Using the remaining 30 apps researchers entered seven cycles worth of information into the data fields. This information was sourced from real women and included things like changes to cervical fluid and basal body temperature, both of which are strong indicators of impending ovulation. The team also included urinalysis results which tested for changes in LZ, a hormone which is responsible for releasing a mature egg from the ovary.
Ovulation tracking involves a women noting changes to her cervical fluid. As she gets closer to ovulation cervical fluid becomes thicker and resembles an egg white consistency. This makes it easy for the sperm to travel to meet the egg. Measuring basal body temperature is also used which spikes just before the egg is released. The hormone LZ also spikes 24 to 36 hours before an egg is released, making this a women's most fertile time for conception.
Alarmingly only six of the included apps in the study were accurate when it came to predicting a women's most fertile days with the best performers being Ovulation Mentor, Sympto.org and iCycleBeads.
The information is not only interesting from a birth control point of view but is also important for those relying on mobile apps in an attempt to get pregnant, a tool professionals are seeing more and more women using.
Dr Marguerite Duane, a family physician and Associate Professor at Georgetown does state that her study however did not look specifically at women using fertility apps to get pregnant, rather those who use them predominantly as means of birth control. She says that in order to assess pregnancy resulting from use of mobile apps, further research and data is required.
The results have prompted researchers to remind people of technology's downfalls, especially when it comes to our health and say that the apps currently in use should not be relied on 100 per cent for pregnancy prevention.
“We have this inherent trust that the more technological it is, the better it is,” she told Mother Jones.
“So if it failed and a woman became pregnant, she would blame the method, not the app.”
The facts, on fertility.