Preliminary results from a recent academic study suggest that use of a period and fertility tracking app effectively reduced the incidence of unplanned pregnancies.
Of note, among 419 enrolled women between the ages of 18 and 35 years, all 15 of the pregnancies that occurred over the course of six menstrual cycles were the result of incorrect use, according to the researchers, indicating a 3.5 percent failure rate during typical use.
Published in Contraception and conducted through Georgetown University Medical Center’s Institute for Reproductive Health (IRH) and the University of Utah’s OB&GYN department, the study focused on use of the Dynamic Optimal Timing (Dot) app. The tool uses period start dates inputted by the user to to develop a personalized algorithm to predict cycles and communicate whether a user is at high or low risk of conception during a given day.
The final version of the study is looking to include 13 cycles worth of data 718 enrolled participants aged 18 to 39 years, and is expected to be available in the earlier part of 2019, according to a statement.
Why it matters
App-based cycle trackers are among the many new digital alternatives to family planning. These results, collected from a tool that relies solely on user-inputted data.
“Given the growing interest in fertility apps, it was important to provide these early results,” Victoria Jennings, director of the IRH and the study’s principal investigator, said in a statement. “Our purpose is to provide guidance to women who want to use Dot as well as to health providers and policy makers who are interested in this emerging method of family planning. … We hope this paper contributes to the ongoing discussion about the effectiveness of fertility apps and how their efficacy should be assessed.”
What’s the trend
Cycle tracking apps have recently been at the forefront of the digital health regulation conversation following news that the controversial Natural Cycles app had received de novo marketing approval. Other digital approaches to women’s health include Ava’s cycle-tracking wearable, Fitbit’s new smartwatch features and Flo’s more comprehensive approach to women’s health tracking.
On the record
"We are thrilled with the Dot study efficacy results to date as it shows that the app is extremely accurate; and since Dot is so easy to use (requiring only a user's period start dates), people are using it correctly,” Leslie Heyer, founder and president of Cycle Technologies, which made the Dot app, told MobiHealthNews in an email statement. “There is often skepticism when it comes to technology interventions, but this study is showing that Dot works and has great potential to address women's family planning needs."