These past few years, things that once was part of people’s daily lives has been mitigated or replaced by apps. Furthermore, it didn’t take long for developers to come up with future alternatives to birth control using your phone.
A recent observational study on the tracking app, “Dot”, shows that the app was more than 90% efficient at preventing pregnancy. There’s been concern from people about other options of contraceptives, even though they are ticked safe for use.
IUDs, pills, and hormone-based preventive measures used over a long period has raised concerns from users. Some people might find it challenging to try hormonal birth controls. Reasons could be due to underlying health problems, or may just prefer to use non-hormonal birth control.
The “Dot” app uses the rhythm method to predict what day a user is likely to get pregnant. This method also referred to as the fertility awareness, is on average, 77-88% effective, according to Planned Parenthood.
“Dynamic Optimal Timing”, DOT, is an app you can download on your smartphone, as stated on the website, is an “easy-to-use fertility app that can help you plan or prevent pregnancy and predict future periods simply by entering start dates of your period.”
Over time, the app allows users to know their “low” fertility days and their “high” fertility days based on their submissions and DOT algorithm. Users are advised to minimise sex or not have it at all on “high” fertility days. Users could also make use of condoms.
A recent study, published in “The European Journal of Contraception & Reproductive Health Care”, makes us understand that 718 female candidates monitored 13 of their individual menstrual cycles, collecting data from February 2017 to October 2018. The participants, ages between 18-39, used DOT to prevent pregnancy.
Researchers accessed the effectiveness of DOT, noting failure rate for the app in connection with scenarios where participants used the app “Perfectly” as directly instructed, also more “typically”, with those who didn’t use the app with 100% accuracy. Pregnancies collected in the data were confirmed through the candidate’s self-administered pregnancy tests and self-report.
It was discovered that users who maintained a perfect use of the app failure rate were estimated to be 1%, while the typical-use failure rate was only 5%, with no particular differences appearing based on factors like racial or ethical groups and age.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for comparison, calculated that birth control pills in typical use, in cases where users miss days or forget to use them, have 7% failure rate. IUDs recorded about 0.8% typical use failure, while condom typical use recorded 13% failure.
An exclusive with MindBodyGreen’s lead study writer Victoria Jennings, who is also the Director of the Institute for Reproduction Health at Georgetown University, explained that the study represented one of the early set of fertility tracking apps like DOT had its usefulness as a means of controlling birth in a familiar scientific environment to other methods like birth control pills. She added, “Our rigorous study design also allowed us to understand how women use the app and how they can be encouraged to use it correctly.”
Owner of Cycle Technologies and Jennings’ daughter, Leslie Heyer, told MindBodyGreen that studies showed how, “In the real world, people are still able to use DOT correctly and protect themselves from pregnancy.”
Although the new research is showing promise, it still doesn’t mean it’s time to forgo all other forms of contraception or lock up your current methods in the attic. The study is the first of its kind, and, like always, more studies need to be done to help better inform users of their alternatives.
As pointed out by Stat, despite the app being described as a means of contraception, DOT is yet to be evaluated and cleared by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), though “Natural Cycle”, which is a similar app, has been approved by the FDA. Also, DOT, like IUDs or Pills, cannot prevent users against STIs (sexually transmitted infections).
Nonetheless, fertility tracking apps such as DOT, and their promised effectiveness, do birth interesting discussions linked with the future of birth control options.
Dr Nathaniel DeNicola suggests that “Doctors and patients need to be talking about these apps.” He further added, “for some women, this method may be perfectly acceptable. … But they need to know what they’re getting into.”