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Smartphone apps no help at preventing, achieving pregnancy, study says

Researchers found most apps they tested had questionable accuracy, at best.

By Stephen Feller
While many women are interested in using more natural ways to either help them get pregnant or prevent a pregnancy, researchers at Georgetown University say the smartphone apps for that purpose have questionable efficacy at doing either. Photo by bilderpool/Shutterstock
While many women are interested in using more natural ways to either help them get pregnant or prevent a pregnancy, researchers at Georgetown University say the smartphone apps for that purpose have questionable efficacy at doing either. Photo by bilderpool/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON, June 30 (UPI) -- A smartphone app helping women track days of fertility each month for the purpose of getting pregnant or preventing pregnancy would be useful, but most are not reliable enough to do either, researchers say.

Most of the smartphone apps tested in a recent study failed to accurately track fertile days without false negatives, report researchers at Georgetown University.

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Women are increasingly using apps because of an interest in using fertility awareness based methods to plan for pregnancy, however most apps do not use evidence-based FABMs to measure and predict days of the month when women will be fertile.

More than half the apps researchers tested in the study also included warnings discouraging against their use to prevent pregnancy, leading to questions about their accuracy.

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"When learning how to track your fertility signs, we recommend that women first receive instruction from a trained educator and then look for an app that scored 4 or more on mean accuracy and authority in our review," Dr. Marguerite Duane, an adjunct associate professor at the Georgetown University School of Medicine, said in a press release.

For the study, published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, the researchers identified more than 95 apps on iTunes, Google and Google Play, excluding 55 from the study because they either contained a disclaimer against using them for pregnancy prevention or did not use an evidence-based FABM to track fertile days.

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Rating the remaining apps on a five-point scale for 10 criteria, researchers found 30 apps predicted days of fertility, and just six received a perfect score on accuracy and did not mark days of fertility as infertile.

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For women who plan to use an app, the researchers suggest they receive training in an FABM, which only some of the apps also recommend. They also say solely relying on an FABM app may not be enough to prevent pregnancy, regardless of the accuracy of the app.

"The effectiveness of fertility awareness based methods depends on women observing and recording fertility biomarkers and following evidence-based guidelines," researchers write in the study. "Apps offer a convenient way to track fertility biomarkers, but only some employ evidence-based FABMs."

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