Try Family Planning with an App

Who tracks their cycle?

We’ve all done it… at least for a while until it gets too cumbersome, and thats tracking our menstrual cycle on a calendar to plan life activities around it. For some its how we know when to avoid wearing certain clothes or activities; others to anticipate or make sense of the acne, bloating or cramps; and for others its natural family planning purposes. And family planning purposes could be to know when to have sex so you can get pregnant  or when NOT to have sex to avoid it. The problem is, unless you’re super informed on the ins and outs of fertility – theres a high probability you could still get it all wrong. But now you can take out the guesswork and monitor something that can be complex with something as simple as an app on your phone.

Family Planning Apps Exist

Early results from a first-of-its-kind study suggests that typical use of a family planning app called Dot is as effective as other modern methods for avoiding an unplanned pregnancy. 

Researchers from the Institute for Reproductive Health (IRH) at Georgetown University Medical Center are studying women’s use of the app for 13 menstrual cycles, or about one year. The ongoing prospective study design is the first to apply best-practice guidelines for assessing fertility awareness based methods in the testing of an app.

The interim results following Dot’s use for six cycles are published in the journal Contraception (title: Estimating six-cycle efficacy of the Dot app for pregnancy prevention.) Dot is owned by Cycle Technologies, which is solely responsible for the app.

How do Family Planning Apps Work

Dot provides a woman with information about her fertility status each day of her menstrual cycle. It uses an algorithm and machine learning to identify the fertile days of her cycle based on her cycle lengths.

After women had been in the study for six cycles, the researchers found that the app had a typical-use failure rate of 3.5 percent, which suggests that Dot’s one-year typical efficacy rate will be comparable to other modern family planning methods such as the pill, injections, and vaginal ring.

“Given the growing interest in fertility apps, it was important to provide these early results,” says Victoria Jennings, PhD, principal investigator of the Dot efficacy study and director of the IRH.

718 participants in the United States enrolled in the study, and 419 participants completed six cycles of use. There were 15 confirmed pregnancies from cycles when participants used the method incorrectly (such as having unprotected sex on days of high fertility). No pregnancies occurred in cycles when participants reported correct use of the app during high risk days for pregnancy.

“Our purpose is to provide guidance to women who want to use Dot as well as to health providers and policy makers who are interested in this emerging method of family planning,” Jennings says. “We hope this paper contributes to the on-going discussion about the effectiveness of fertility apps and how their efficacy should be assessed.”

Final efficacy results are expected in early 2019.

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