A new study, which will be released July 7 in the Journal of American Board of Family Medicine, states that smartphone apps used to help a woman get pregnant or avoid pregnancy aren’t very reliable. The study analyzed nearly 100 apps available on iTunes or Google Play and found that the majority of them didn’t have a strong scientific background, leaving many women trying to get pregnant disappointed and those trying to avoid pregnancy possibly in shock.
Lead author of the study, Dr. Marguerite Duane, stated: “Smartphone apps are increasing in popularity because more and more women are interested in using natural or fertility awareness-based methods of family planning.”
She also added that they help women feel empowered and in control of their bodies, even though most of the apps actually don’t work as well as they should.
Duane found that most of these apps don’t use accurate methods to predict when a woman is most fertile, and are often not even based on scientific evidence. Some even come with a disclaimer saying they shouldn’t actually be used for what they are intended for: to help prevent pregnancy.
Within the study, the researchers identified almost 100 apps that are supposed to help prevent pregnancy or aid in conceiving. Fifty-five of them were discarded because they come with a warning that they should not be used to help prevent pregnancy or aid in conceiving.
There were 40 remaining apps that the researchers analyzed which did not come with a warning, which were then assessed on a 5-point scale of how well they were able to predict fertile days. Researchers found that 30 of these apps were able to accurately predict days of fertility for the user, whilst 10 were not able to do so. Only six of the apps received a perfect score on accuracy or did not show fertile days as infertile days.
Duane says that using the apps alone is probably not a good idea, but they can be used in conjunction with other training.
“We recommend that women first receive instruction from a trained educator and then look for an app that scored four or more on mean accuracy and authority in our review,” she says.
Anna Scanlon is an author of YA and historical fiction and a PhD student at the University of Leicester where she is finishing her degree in modern history.