Do you use fertility tracking apps on your smartphone? There are quite a few out there, and hundreds of thousands of women use these apps. One of them–called Glow–presented a study at the recent meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), generating some buzz.
Based on the vast amount of data that its users have input into the app, Glow’s presentation essentially stated that using fertility tracking apps can help women conceive faster. A writer at Wired asked a few fertility experts to weigh in on this finding, and Dr. Kushnir was one of those quoted. Dr. Kushnir said that the fertility rate seems to improve even after just one cycle of tracking suggests that the improvements we see in the study are more likely to be due to the fact that women who already know what they are doing–so to speak–are more likely to be heavy users of the app than the possibility that the use of the app itself improved their pregnancy chances.
It’s not that fertility tracking apps have no place in your attempts for pregnancy, however. Here’s Dr. Kushnir’s full commentary:
In general, these kind of apps can be helpful for women who are trying to take charge of their fertility (either trying to conceive or avoid a pregnancy), but only if the apps are used and interpreted correctly. This particular study has significant sampling bias since women who are using the app more are likely to be more engaged in proactively trying to conceive then the control women who used the app less frequently. My conclusion appears to be supported by an improvement in fecundity after just one cycle, this is more likely to reflect selection bias than a change in behavior learned from fertility tracking. Additionally, the authors did not show age-specific fecundity rates needed to correctly interpret this data, instead they only reported supposed improvement in fecundity rates.
These apps have another tantalizing potential for fertility research: because these apps are used by women who are not infertile, and users input a lot of data that will accumulate over time, these apps can make a significant contribution to data-driven research of normal fertility, which is difficult to conduct at infertility center setting, where most study “subjects” are infertile. Of course, having data is not enough–we need a critical eye when analyzing the data to avoid an overly simplistic interpretation.