By Joy Daughtery Dickinson, Executive Editor


Increasingly, people are using smartphone apps to manage their lives, including getting pregnant or avoiding pregnancy. A published study indicates that using that approach for pregnancy might not be such a good idea.

A review of 100 fertility awareness apps, published in the “Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine,” indicates that most of them don’t use evidence-based methodology. In fact, many of the apps have a disclaimer that discourages use of the app to avoid pregnancy. (The manuscript will be published Thursday July 7 at http://www.factsaboutfertility.org.) 

The authors say, “The effectiveness of fertility awareness based methods (FABMs) depends on women observing and recording fertility biomarkers and following evidence-based guidelines.” To successfully use FABM to become pregnant or avoid pregnancy involves several factors, including the ability of the female to make daily observations and classify them, they add.

The authors found more than 95 apps on iTunes, Google, or Google play. However, 55 weren’t evaluated because the apps had a disclaimer prohibiting their use for avoiding pregnancy or they didn’t claim to use an evidence-based FABM. The remaining apps were rated for accuracy using a 5-point scale for 10 weighted criteria. “Only six apps had either a perfect score on accuracy or no false negatives (days of fertility classified as infertile),” the authors write.

When learning to track their fertility signs, women first should be instructed by a trained education, and then they should look for an app that scores 4 or more on mean accuracy and authority in their review, says lead author Marguerite Duane, MD, MHA, FAAFP, adjunct associate professor at Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, DC, and executive director of Fertility Appreciation Collaborative to Teach the Science (FACTS) in Dayton, OH.

Information about evidence based FABMs and a list of the reviewed apps is on the FACTS website. (Keep up with pregnancy prevention and STI information in our Contraceptive Technology Update publication.)