The Dot app is one of several that have become increasingly popular and said to be changing the way women conceive.
A fertility app has been found to be as effective as the pill and other family planning methods, according to the first study of its kind.
Researchers from the Institute for Reproductive Health (IRH) at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington studied women’s use of the Dot app over 13 menstrual cycles, or about one year.
The app lets users know their chances of conceiving on any given day. It is one of several such apps that have become increasingly popular and said to be changing the way women conceive. Many users say being able to track your fertility on your phone plays a huge part in making them more aware of their bodies and gives them a sense of control.
Using historical cycle data and a woman’s period start dates, Dot’s algorithm predicts pregnancy risk for each day of her menstrual cycle, flagging days of high and low fertility. As the app “learns” about her cycle over time, it personalises a user’s fertile window – the days of her cycle when pregnancy is likely.
The new study into Dot, published in the European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Healthcare, is the first to test a fertility app using best-practice guidelines for assessing effectiveness of family planning methods.
The researchers found that the app had a typical-use failure rate of five per cent and a perfect-use failure rate of 1 per cent, which makes Dot comparable to family planning methods such as the pill, vaginal ring, and other fertility awareness-based methods.
Of the 718 women aged 18 to 39 who took part in the study, there were 24 pregnancies from cycles when participants used the method incorrectly, such as having unprotected sex on days of high fertility. One pregnancy occurred in a cycle in which the participant used Dot correctly.
IRH director and study co-author Victoria Jennings said: “More and more women are using apps as a family planning method, so having an option backed by strong evidence of effectiveness is critical.
“Women must be able to base their app choice on solid evidence about how well the method works and what’s involved in using it. That’s why it was so important that an app like Dot undergo a rigorous effectiveness trial conducted according to established study guidelines used to study other methods.”
Dr Jennings added: “Given the widespread use of mobile technology, a digital method like Dot has the potential to reach many women with an unmet need for family planning.”
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