Smartphone apps 'no substitute for contraception'
You might not want to depend on your smartphone app alone to avoid or achieve pregnancy, new research cautions.
Researchers from Georgetown University School of Medicine in the U.S. have investigated almost 100 phone apps that allow women to track their fertility and menstrual cycles.
For the review, 95 apps were identified on iTunes, Google, or Google Play. Of those, 55 were excluded from evaluation because they either had a disclaimer prohibiting use for avoiding pregnancy or did not conform to best practice. The researchers evaluated the remaining 40 apps for accuracy using a five-point scale based on how each was targeted at preventing pregnancy.
Accordingly, they found that 30 of the apps predicted which days a user could be fertile and 10 of them did not. However, only six of the apps were given a perfect score for accuracy and no "false positives", where days in which a woman was fertile were classed as infertile days.
Study lead author Dr Marguerite Duane said that the smartphone apps are increasing in popularity because more and more women are interested in using natural or fertility awareness methods of family planning, in order to feel empowered with greater knowledge.
Dr Duane also noted as only a few of the apps proved of sufficient high quality to compare with contraceptive methods such as The Pill, she recommends women who want to be certain about their fertility should seek professional advice and then look for a smartphone app that scores at least 4 out of 5 on the scale.
"The effectiveness of fertility awareness based methods (FABMs) depends on women observing and recording fertility biomarkers and following evidence-based guidelines," the authors write in the report. "Apps offer a convenient way to track fertility biomarkers, but only some employ evidence-based FABMs."
The findings were first published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.