Fertility apps unlikely to help plan or prevent pregnancy

July 27, 2016

We are increasingly relying on smartphone apps to help keep track of our health, a recent survey by Allianz Worldwide Partners revealed the top three connected health applications sought by consumers.

One health app growing in popularity are fertility apps, initially designed to help couples who are trying to conceive by informing them when a woman’s fertility levels are at a peak. A new study has found that the use of such apps is gaining popularity, as the apps also indicate when fertility chances are low and an increasing number of women are using them as a form of contraception.

The study by the Georgetown University School of Medicine reviewed almost 100 fertility apps to test how reliable and scientifically grounded their methodology is. They found that many apps rely on Fertility Awareness Based Methods (FABMs) which may be insufficient to avoid pregnancy as they do not employ enough evidence based research and methodology.

The researchers found that 55 of the apps either had a disclaimer stating they were not to be used to avoid pregnancy, or they failed to use an evidence-based FABM, leading to their elimination from review.

Of the remaining apps the research team found that 30 predicted fertile days for the user, while the remaining 10 did not.

Only 6 apps were found to hold a “perfect score” for accuracy and having no false negatives.
“The effectiveness of fertility awareness based methods 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.” said study lead Dr. Marguerite Duane. “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.”
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