Women who use mobile phone applications and websites to predict if they can get pregnant when they have unprotected sex stand a higher risk of getting pregnant
A new study shows that most of the fertility applications to determine the safe days in a woman's menstrual cycle are misleading.
The research published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynaecology shows that only one in 20 websites were accurate in monitoring the menstrual cycle and predicting safe days. They also found out that only one in every eleven apps was accurate.
The study which examined 20 websites and 33 phone apps found that just one website and three apps were accurate.
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Researchers from Weill Cornell Medicine in New York wrote, "Websites and electronic apps used by the general public to predict fertile windows are generally inaccurate."
During the study, researchers went through Apple iTunes store looking for free menstrual cycle tracking apps.
The research got 1,116 apps out of which only 108 were selected after apps that were duplicating their purpose were eliminated. Also moved from the list were apps that were non-English, non-menstrual cycle tracking and apps with price tags.
Out of the remaining apps, 88 more were eliminated after they did not meet inclusion or accurate criteria. This left only 20 websites that were accurate and free.
The verdict was very clear: Most free smartphone menstrual cycle tracking apps for patient use are inaccurate. Few cite medical literature or health professional involvement. We list accurate apps to aid health care providers in understanding the key components they can use to evaluate and recommend apps for patients.
Looking at the nitty-gritty of the apps selected as accurate and free, four out of five had information of conception while half of them had information on contraception. Some other features of interest that the apps had included health education (65 per cent), tracking of menstrual flow (70 per cent), intercourse (75 per cent); alerts for next menses (65 per cent).
This research could prove costly to couples and women specifically either way. With getting it wrong on the fertility period, women are prone to miss wanted pregnancies or risk getting unwanted pregnancies.
During the research, a case was taken for a woman with a 28-day cycle with the first day of menstrual flow as day one. It is expected that such a cycle has ovulation on day 15 thus creating a fertility window of between the 10th and 15th day of the cycle.
And to this the research found that eight out of ten of these apps predicted with precision the 15 day as the day of ovulation.
But the apps differed on the number of days of fertility being between four to 12 days; three out of four websites and apps even include days after ovulation as being within the fertility window.
Dr Jackson Kioko, the acting director of medical services says that there is need to look at the study further to see if there is need to state that it applies to Kenya.
"Some of these apps we use in Kenya have been tested and are reliable, meaning the ones we have in Kenya are reliable," stated Dr Kioko cautiously, arguing that there is need to look at the study with the Kenyan audience in mind.
"Because there is no rigorous screening process in effect to vet these websites and apps, we recommend caution in their use to assist with fertility," the research wrote.
As technology develops, more and more apps come into the market for use and it is up to users to b informed on which ones to trust and which ones not to.