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Can a Fertility App Provide Effective Birth Control?

A new fertility app that can provide birth control.

May 17, 2019
Bridget Houlihan

In our society, it seems like there’s an app for everything these days. But what about an app that can help with family planning? It seems like something you wouldn’t want try on a whim-- you’d want some solid evidence before using as an app as your means of birth control.

Researchers at the Georgetown University Medical Center’s Institute for Reproductive Health put the app “Dot” through a rigorous first-of-its-kind trial to see if an application could be just as an effective form of birth control as the pill. In this article we’ll examine:

  • What did the research conclude?
  • What does this mean for the future of family planning?

large clock
This app tracks your fertility cycle monthly-- so you know which days are fertile and which days aren’t.

Results of the Trial

The researchers at the university wanted to see if technology could start to effectively help women with their family planning. They studied the menstrual cycles of women for a 13 month period--  just over a year. They found that the Dot application uses historical data-- which women input-- as well as the start time of each of their periods going forward. It then uses an algorithm to predict what days will be most fertile, and which days are least fertile-- and less likely to result in a pregnancy. The longer that women use the app, the better the app gets at “learning” which days are which.

The study included 718 women who logged menstrual history data for 6,616 cycles. The researchers found that there was a typical-use failure rate of 5%, and a perfect-use failure rate of 1%. This means that the app was just as effective as the pill or other fertility awareness-based measures. This is incredible news for women who want to take their family planning methods away from the pill or vaginal ring and utilize technology to do so. Having an option such as Dot that is backed by conclusive scientific evidence is a huge step forward to making application-based family planning the norm.

family taking a walk
The app Dot was proven to be as successful as the pill when it comes to family planning.

Future of Family Planning

So what does this mean for the future of family planning? Researchers proved that this app could be as effective as the pill-- and just like the pill, it was put through a rigorous test which it passed. This opens the door to other possible family planning apps-- ones that will now have to meet the criteria of a study such as this. More and more women are turning to app-based technology as their method of birth control. Many women have suffered some awful side effects from using pills, shots, IUDs-- and want nothing more to do with putting hormones into their bodies.

By tracking their fertility cycles, you can remove all these external devices. To most women, this must have sounded like a pipe dream, and they are understandably be wary of using an app for something as important as effective birth control. But the results of this study show that Dot can be as useful as the pill-- and this now backed by the results of this study. It’s also important to note that no association was found between pregnancy and sociodemographic factors such as age, ethnicity, and relationship status-- which means all women can use Dot as effective birth control.

This study has proven that technology is the way forward when it comes to family planning. This is a great way for women to track their fertility monthly. This app can either help them know their fertile days to help with pregnancy-- or know what days to abstain to avoid it.


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