If you’re trying to conceive and thinking about using a fertility tracking app, read this before you hit the download button.
Once you and your partner make the decision to grow your family, you may opt for a fertility tracking app to help you conceive naturally. Whether you’re trying for your first baby, or you’d like to have a second or third child, fertility tracking apps are designed to help you track everything from your prime ovulation window to your basal body temperature and more.
Do fertility tracking apps work?
Well, according to many of you, they do. A 2016 study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine found that at that time, there were nearly 100 smartphone apps that helped women track their menstrual cycles and prime fertility windows. And of those, some of the most popular ones had been downloaded over a million times each. So, it’s clear that women around the world are finding these apps useful, but how do they accurately predict fertility?
A popular tracking method
One of the most popular ways an app can predict your fertility is by tracking three bodily clues known collectively as the Symptothermal Method (STM). According to experts at Fertility Smarts, a fertility-based encyclopaedia, this method tracks:
- Your period
- Your basal body temperature
- Your cervical mucus
By tracking these three bodily changes every month, you can pinpoint your most fertile window within your menstrual cycle, and this can help you fall pregnant by having sex within this time frame.
Fertility tracking apps help you to remember the frequency and length of each menstrual cycle so that you know whether you’re regular or irregular as well as how long you’re in the follicular phase ( from the first day of your period to ovulation) and the luteal phase (the time between ovulation and the start of menstruation).
Basal body temperature
Your basal body temperature rises by 0.5 to 1.5°C around 12-24 hours after ovulation. By taking your temperature as soon as you wake up each day (known as your basal body temperature), you’ll be able to get a pretty good idea of when you’re ovulating and when your fertile window is.
Your cervical mucus
When you ovulate, your cervical mucus is usually thin, fluid and clear – almost like an egg white consistency. However, when you’re not ovulating, your cervical mucus is generally thicker. Recording these changes over a few months with a fertility tracking app can also help you pinpoint when you’re ovulating and when you’re not.
Other popular tracking methods
Fertility tracking apps also help you to:
- Know your overall health status such as your weight, sleep, stress levels, blood pressure (as this all contributes to achieving a healthy pregnancy).
- Track your ovulation with a calculator. Ovulation calculators are normally a key feature in most fertility tracking apps because they help you identify exactly when you’re ovulating. All you have to do is plug in when you last had a period and how long your average menstrual cycle normally is.
- Understand your emotions and jot down anything important in the notes section .
The latest technology
One of the latest fertility apps known as Kindara, has a few extra features such as Wink – one of the first oral fertility thermometers. This tool helps you take your basal temperature with a small, wireless thermometer that syncs with your app and keeps a log of your basal body temperature each day.
Where fertility tracking apps fall short
Yolanda Kirkham, an obstetrician and gynaecologist who works at Women’s College Hospital and St. Joseph’s Health Centre in Toronto, Canada, says she tells her patients to use fertility tracking apps as a guide to predict ovulation, but she believes some are better than others.
Also, studies have shown that at-home ovulation kits are more accurate than apps, which simply rely on previous information to predict future outcomes.
According to a study in the Journal of Women’s Health Care, an ovulation predictor kit can also detect hormonal changes in a woman’s saliva, and this has been found to be 93% accurate.
A 2011 study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal also looked at two urine-testing ovulation predictor kits, and found they were up to 97% accurate.
One of the biggest problems with fertility tracking apps is that human error often comes into play, whereas an at-home ovulation kit has been proven to be more effective, especially for women who have irregular and unpredictable menstrual cycles that don’t fit perfectly into a specific algorithm.
The Fertility Show Africa takes place on Friday, March 6, and Saturday, March 7, 2020 at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand, Gauteng. Show times are Friday from 9am to 6pm and Saturday from 9am to 5pm. Learn more at www.fertilityshowafrica.co.za.
Tammy is a wife, mom and freelance writer with 15 years’ experience in the media industry. She specialises in general lifestyle topics related to health, wellness and parenting. Tammy has a passion for fitness and the great outdoors. If she’s not running around after her daughter, you’ll find her off the beaten track, running, hiking or riding her bike. Learn more about Tammy Jacks .