For centuries, women have tracked their fertility using science and calendars. From temperature to tracking your menstrual cycle on a calendar, you can estimate when you are near ovulation.
Technology is now changing the game. From Fitbit to fertility apps, women are beginning to use their smartphones to track their most fertile periods. Based on fertility awareness methods, these apps use different methods to predict when you are most fertile. Natural Cycles is the first fertility app that has been cleared by the FDA but not without much scrutiny. The studies done on this app did not contain randomized control trials and all of the participants were self-selected.
Unlike other forms of contraception, fertility apps have not been rigorously tested. In addition, when the FDA approved Natural Cycles, the app was simultaneously being investigated for overestimating its efficacy.
This app tracks the users “basal body temperature” to determine their fertility window. For women using this type of app to improve fertility, it may be helpful without any risks. This is a reasonable choice for women under the age of 35 who’ve been trying for more than 6 months to see if better timing might improve the chance of pregnancy.
However, the use of these apps for the prevention of pregnancy puts women at a higher risk for unwanted pregnancy compared with traditional birth control methods: including condoms. Statistically, fertility tracking is 76-88% effective in preventing pregnancy.
There are so many variables in a woman’s life that can cause her to ovulate early or late, even though most months she’s “regular”. Stress increases or decreases in exercise, changes in weight, travel and other factors can affect a woman’s ovulation timing for one or more months.
Further, individuals with conditions such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) may have irregular menstrual cycles, and these apps may not be effective in properly tracking their fertility. Given the increased prevalence of PCOS in the Bay Area, we at El Camino Women’s Medical Group do not recommend fertility apps for preventing pregnancy.
Please consult your doctor before use of fertility tracking applications for the prevention of pregnancy and for women with infertility, if you’re under the age of 35 and have been trying without success for 12 months, or are over the age of 35 and have been trying for 6 months, we recommend you come in for an evaluation. Use of a fertility tracker may be a reasonable part of a treatment plan, but after ruling out other things that may be preventing pregnancy.
El Camino Women’s Medical Group offers the latest Minimally Invasive Solutions for gynecologic problems. Drs. Amy Teng, Erika Balassiano, and Pooja Gupta, all members of AAGL (American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopy) are highly trained and experienced in the field of Minimally Invasive Gynecgologic Surgery. Dr. Erika Balassiano is also completed a Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery Fellowship, under the supervision of world-renowned Dr. Camran Nezhat.
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