Family Planning App Should Be Used With Caution, Doctor Says

Whether you want to avoid pregnancy or get pregnant, there's an app for that!

A study from Georgetown University showed one popular family planning app, Dot, is about 95% effective, which is almost the same as the pill.

"Knowing when you ovulate or release an egg is important," said Dr. Amy Schutt, a reproductive endocrinologist at Texas Children's Pavilion for Women in Houston.

She said almost all of her patients used an app to track their cycle.

She said she agreed apps could be beneficial for patients to understand fertility, but she warned that about 15% of women are irregular. That means this natural method of getting pregnant or avoiding it might fail them.

"It crunches the numbers and says, 'You're going to ovulate on this day, have intercourse on these days to get pregnant,'" Schutt said. "But if your cycles are irregular it's guessing. It really doesn't know."

Which means it could still leave a user open to getting pregnant if she doesn't want to, or cause her to miss her fertility window if she does.

Schutt said the intimate data users voluntarily plug into the app could be used against their will.

"Even if an app is free, they're collecting a ton of data about you," she said. "About your menstrual cycles, your intercourse patterns, your bleeding patterns, and using your data for marketing."

Schutt also warned against the apps that encourage users to buy expensive accessories, like watches, to monitor their heart rates or temperatures.

She said she did not believe they were accurate enough to detect ovulation since the wearables could not tell the difference between hormone changes and when a user just gets hot during a workout.

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