ptestI just received an email from a Hormone Horoscope App user who asks me, “Why don’t you make it clearer when app users can get pregnant. I think this would be an obvious feature to offer. I’m trying to get pregnant and could use the info.”

While I want my app users to learn everything they can about how the ups and downs of their hormones impact them every day of their monthly cycle, I don’t ever want women to use my app to try to get pregnant or avoid pregnancy. And, I don’t recommend that users rely heavily on any other menstrual cycle tracker app to get pregnant or avoid pregnancy, either.

Here’s why: I’ve long worried about women using mobile apps as a primary way to gauge their fertile phase. No app can tell you when stress, medication, illness or a big life change you experienced changed the date of your ovulation. It can’t be certain that you calculated your cycle correctly and put in the right data, resulting in the exact fertile window. It can’t guarantee that it won’t have a malfunction that results in giving you the wrong ovulation phase.

You may think I’m being overly cautious, but the truth is, a new study just came out in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology supporting my worries. The researchers tested fertility-predicting programs on 20 websites and 33 mobile apps and this is what they discovered:

“Of all the web sites and apps used, one web site and three apps predicted the precise fertile window.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a fan of those odds. Family planning is not just important, it’s life-changing. If the fertile phase outlined in your app is off by just one day, it can mean you get pregnant accidentally or you miss your chance at conceiving.

The best method of family planning is the one recommended by your gynecologist who knows your medical history and future plans the best. For women trying to get pregnant, your healthcare provider will likely suggest you use fertility predictors that gauge your body’s own telltale ovulation clues, such as a basal thermometer or ovulation test strips. And, based on the data, that’s my recommendation, too.

[Photo: Johannes Jander]

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