Fertility apps in the digital age
In this blog Novarum Dx (part of BBI Solutions) speaks with Dr Simon Rowland, Head of Medical Affairs (Europe), at Natural Cycles to understand the benefits of using mobile apps for fertility awareness.
Mobile apps are disrupting every aspect of our daily lives. A recent study of 511 smartphone users found that 75% of them open apps between 1-25 times per day. The same study revealed that nearly a quarter of millennials are opening apps around 50 times, in just one day.
With each generation, it’s clear that mobile apps are becoming an integral part of society and even have a bearing on lifestyle decision-making.
Arguably one of the most significant lifestyle choices supported by a medical app is family planning. Driven by scientific algorithms, mobile medical apps offer powerful fertility awareness methods to plan or prevent, pregnancy.
Natural Cycles is leading the way in reproductive health apps. Their fertility app was the first to achieve FDA clearance in the US, and CE-Marked status in Europe, as a medical device for use as a birth control method.
The Natural Cycles algorithm analyses body temperature to inform women where they are during their cycle. An algorithm analyses the basal body (or lowest resting) temperature measurements entered into the app to detect ovulation, thereby identifying ‘green days’, when no protection is needed, or ‘red days’, to indicate when protection or abstention from sex is required to prevent pregnancy.
The Natural Cycles algorithm has been intricately designed to account for sperm survival, variation in cycle length, ovulation day and temperature fluctuations. It is sensitive to subtle patterns in a woman’s cycle, and if the app detects something unexpected, it will err on the side of caution and report a red day.
In a recent study, conducted with 54,372 women, the Natural Cycles fertility awareness-based method of birth control had a typical use real-world effectiveness between 92.5% and 94.9% for preventing pregnancy, depending on the national cohort.
Natural Cycles won the conference prize for best academic presentation at the German Society of Gynaecology conference (DGGG) in October last year. The company, which was founded in Switzerland, and now has headquarters in Sweden, is widely regarded as one of the fastest growing start-ups in the country. Dr Simon Rowland, Head of Medical Affairs (Europe) commented on how the Natural Cycles fertility app is widely regarded as an effective digital birth control: “By developing the first CE marked and FDA cleared digital fertility awareness-based method of birth control Natural Cycles is pioneering women’s health and increasing birth control choice for hundreds of thousands of women. The app is a powerful tool for fertility education and empowers women to take charge of their reproductive health.”
Fertility tracking apps empower women to make more informed decisions about their reproductive health. Basic calendar notifications and in-app alerts inform women about their fertile phase and ovulation day. Many apps provide simple instructions on how to record hormonal indicators, like basal temperature, or even how to conduct pregnancy tests correctly. However, Natural Cycles is the only app with regulatory clearance for birth control.
Step-by-step instructions can be conveyed as multimedia videos and animations, with the ability for the user to operate basic controls, in order to pause frames or play narrative to follow instructions at their own pace.
Significant improvements in the quality of cameras uniquely position smartphones as diagnostic test readers, which can remove emotional bias and subjectivity when interpreting a pregnancy test result. There is the risk with self-testing, that the user does not follow in-app instructions correctly. To counter this, additional control measures are required to restrict user behaviour during important stages of self-testing. For instance, it is vital that the user allows enough of an incubation period before interpreting the test result. As a result, built-in timers, which physically lock down a smartphone, can ensure the correct amount of incubation time has passed before reading the test result.
Modern pregnancy tests increasingly contain Bluetooth or Internet connectivity to share test results securely from a smartphone to healthcare professionals. Users can benefit from the privacy of self-testing from the comfort of home, while using technology to determine an accurate diagnosis and with access to further medical reassurance and professional consultation using their own smartphone.
The views expressed in this blog are that of the authors and not the organisation.