Do fertility apps work? Not really and here is why
Someone I know in Berlin is developing a new fertility-app. She runs a dynamic young start-up and is a welcome guest at all kinds of digital health meetups. Because healthcare is going digital and digital healthcare is going mainstream.
So the last time we met, Ms.Start-up asked me whether I could give her new fertility app some promotion on my blog. But how could I promote something I find stupid on the first place?
How do fertility apps work?
The fact is, we live in a technology-based culture. Everything, it seems, can be done and learned through the computer or special apps on iPhones, iPads, or other smartphone devices. This includes fertility medical apps available at various prices from $0 to $200 U.S. dollars.
The information provided by the apps look impressive at first and include some combination of the following parameters:
• Temperature charting
• Cervical mucus info (some apps give you scales to use for stretching and measuring mucus directly on the phone, it really makes me wonder, who would do something like that?)
• Tips for improving fertility (only the expensive fertility apps)
• Prediction estimates, including gender (which is a total nonsense, scientifically speaking, but many apps are not about facts, but about colors and advertising)
• Social shares
• Graphics etc.
Furthermore, some of the fertility apps combine in their fertility prognosis things like moods, possible perimenopausal symptoms, temperature measurments, data on nutrition, and even smoking and drinking habits and several other lifestyle parameters.
Downsides of using fertility-apps
I see many more downsides than benefits in using apps to track fertility and ovulations. The most important ones are:
- It takes a long time to feed all this information into your mobile phone,
- makes you addicted to the app, and even then
- it’s not well customized to reflect your own fertility.
What all fertility apps have in common is that they calculate fertile days based on the length of a woman’s past menstrual cycles.
However, the cycle length and the number of days during menses is completely different for every woman.
One woman, for instance, may go 29 days in one month, and then 30 days the next, but 27 days the month after that. Because of the fluctuating cycle days, the apps can only estimate ovulation days and the changes after the cycle has finished. Based on this, apps calculate an “average” cycle length. The woman above would have an average cycle length of 28.6 days, and her ovulation day and the fertility window would be charted based on that number.
So, fertility apps predict future ovulations entirely based on the past ones, just like any other temperature- and charting-based method. Given that menstrual cycles oscilate even in healthiest women (on the average 1-2 times a year), this accuracy in predicting your most fertile window is simply not enough.
My take on fertility apps is: whether you are trying to get pregnant, or trying to avoid it, relying on app over a long period of time is sure to get you into a trouble sooner or later. Please read here an interesting Daily Mail article how Most fertility apps ‘aren’t based on solid science’ and women shouldn’t use them to avoid pregnancy.
Even worse, fertility apps are supporting women in losing contact to their bodies and becoming blind to all the subtle signs which it always sends when ovulation is approaching.
Fertility apps are supporting women in losing contact to their bodies and becoming blind to its signs.
While some of the apps are informative with graphs and tips to improve fertility any woman can learn to understand the basics of her own cycle after only a few months and doesn’t need a fertility-app for that.
Any woman can easily learn to determine her fertility window and her most fertile days much better than any technology.
It is not that I’m telling that the accuracy of the apps is necessarily bad, only that it’s not exactly a good thing if a woman doesn’t know her own cycle.
Women should understand their fertility, menstrual cycle, and ovulation better than their apps for the simple fact that it’s your body and you should be in charge of it. App is a robot that only estimates one certain process (your fertile days in this case) and the estimation will not get better no matter how much information you feed into it.
Many women believe fertility and ovulation are complicated processes which need to be determined by measurements. And yet, things like measuring the length and consistency of your cervical mucus, the opening of your cervix, and using simple LH-strips in predicting the onset of ovulation are the most simple things in the world which every woman should to master.
Therefore, while fertility apps are okay and certainly better then using no method at all to determine fertile days, true understanding of the cycle is the key.
By simply knowing your cycle and getting better in touch with your body, you will be able to pin your fertility window down to a single day or two and will become far more accurate in predicting than any fertility app out there.