JUL 06, 2016 4:49 AM PDT

Caution: Most Smartphone Fertility Apps Don't Work

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham
People may be putting too much undue trust in smartphone apps for their most intimate matters, researchers report in a new study. In evaluating 100 fertility awareness apps, the team found less than stellar results, with only a handful that actually used evidence-based science.

Smartphone apps not so smart at fertility planning | Image: pixabay.com
 
In our current technologically charged era, there’s an app for just about everything, even those that offer fertility guidance for women looking to conceive a baby, or not. "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," said Marguerite Duane, a family physician and an adjunct associate professor at the Georgetown University School of Medicine.

But what are the methods that these apps employ in order to guide women in one of the most consequential aspects of their adult life? As it turns out, a lot of apps actually don’t rely on quality science at all.
 
For their study, the research team surveyed 100 fertility awareness apps, widely available through iTunes, Google, or Google play. But more than half of these (55) were excluded immediately because the apps disclosed the lack of evidence-based methods for fertility awareness. Furthermore, these 55 supposed fertility apps actually disclaimed the prohibited use to avoid pregnancy. 
 
Then, of the remaining apps, the team assessed fertility accuracy based on a 5-point scale for scientific merit. In particular, they measured how well the apps performed against fertility awareness based methods (FABMs), which are entirely based on scientific evidence and have been proven to be highly accurate with appropriate use. "The effectiveness of fertility awareness based methods (FABMs) depends on women observing and recording fertility biomarkers and following evidence-based guidelines.”
 

 Of the 40 apps reviewed for evidence-based methods, 30 apps predicted fertility days and 10 did not. But sadly, only 6 of the 40 were accurate at predicting days of fertility. This dearth of reliable fertility awareness apps is alarming considering how many such apps are available on the market.
 
 “Apps offer a convenient way to track fertility biomarkers, but only some employ evidence-based FABMs," the authors write. But if women are relying on these apps to achieve or avoid pregnancy, then they may be deceived if they trust an app without scientific merit.
 
"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," said Duane.

Additional sources: FACTS, Georgetown University Medical Center
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
DEC 02, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
Digital Platform Watches for a Silent COVID Killer
DEC 02, 2020
Digital Platform Watches for a Silent COVID Killer
 
JAN 14, 2021
Cardiology
Cortisol in Your Hair Could Predict Your Risk of Heart Attack
JAN 14, 2021
Cortisol in Your Hair Could Predict Your Risk of Heart Attack
The everyday tracking of health has become far easier these days with the advent of fitness watches and other technology ...
JAN 13, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
E-Stethoscope Picks up Good (and Bad) Vibrations
JAN 13, 2021
E-Stethoscope Picks up Good (and Bad) Vibrations
A medical device used to survey lung sounds to monitor for signs of respiratory distress has received FDA clearance. RES ...
JAN 19, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Fathers' Sperm Linked to Autism in Offspring
JAN 19, 2021
Fathers' Sperm Linked to Autism in Offspring
Researchers at Washington State University have uncovered a genetic link between fathers and children with autism spectr ...
FEB 02, 2021
Cardiology
Investigating a Stress Protein's Relation to Heart Failure
FEB 02, 2021
Investigating a Stress Protein's Relation to Heart Failure
As medicine advances, the world’s population gradually becomes older and older. Cardiovascular disease becomes mor ...
FEB 25, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
A Better Way to Triage COVID Patients
FEB 25, 2021
A Better Way to Triage COVID Patients
Australian researchers have developed a COVID-19 triaging tool that serves as a crystal ball for healthcare workers. Onc ...
Loading Comments...