These days, we use apps to manage just about every aspect of our lives—from scheduling appointments and ordering food to connecting with distant friends and online shopping. So, it figures that fertility and ovulation-tracking apps would, at the very least, seem intriguing to those trying to have a baby. In fact, there are currently over 1,000 fertility and cycle-tracking apps available on the Apple App Store.
At Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility, we often get asked about the accuracy and helpfulness of these kind of smartphone ovulation-tracking apps. Here are a few things to know about them before you download.
What are fertility apps?
Fertility apps go by several names—period trackers, ovulation trackers, or fertility trackers—but, essentially, they’re all designed to do the same thing: provide you with tech-based tools to help you keep tabs on your menstrual cycle. (Thus, they’re designed for people with ovaries; there are some apps with features for male partners, but those are typically focused on tracking their general health.)
Most women who are trying to conceive may rely on calendars, basal body temperature measurements, and cervical mucus observations to track their cycles and fertile window. Fertility apps take all that information and store it one place, in attempt to make predictions easier.
At their most basic, apps will require that you input the start and end dates of your last period(s), and then use that information to predict how long your cycle is and when your next period will begin.
There are also some apps that ask for even more information, like details on your emotions, symptoms, and even bowel movements. While this data is a great way to help you regularly check in with your body from cycle to cycle, it’s not necessarily helpful in predicting your next cycle. However, these data points may be helpful during fertility consultations when discussing your cycle and potential issues.
How do they work?
If you are looking to conceive through intercourse, the only way fertilization can happen is to have the egg and sperm meet. This means having intercourse before you ovulate.
Generally speaking, most woman will ovulate 14 days prior to the first day of their menstrual period. Fertility apps are meant to track your cycle and alert you to when you’ll start ovulating. For example, if your cycles are 28 days long then you’ll ovulate on day 14 (28-14=14); if your cycle is 35 days long then you’ll ovulate on day 21 (35-14=21).
As you can guess, if you have an irregular cycle, fertility apps won’t be able to offer you as accurate of a prediction of your ovulation date or fertile window. However, they can still be useful in collecting the data related to your cycles, which would be helpful during your consultation appointment with an infertility doctor.
Which fertility app is the best?
With all these apps and features on the market, how do you know which one actually works the best? At AZCREI, we don’t recommend any one in particular. Most have their individual pros and cons. However, when deciding which app to download, keep these areas in mind:
- Accuracy: Most fertility-tracker apps make their ovulation predictions based on regular fertility cycles, and may not perfectly reflect your own cycle—especially if you typically experience an irregular cycle. If you want to the most accurate prediction for your fertility window, make sure the app has the ability to input ovulation test data.
- Ease of use: You should be able to easily navigate whichever app you end up using. Some allow you to input many data points while others are more streamlined and only require enough information to predict your next ovulation date. You may have to download a couple apps at first to see which interface you actually prefer.
- Additional features: Again, some fertility apps come with a few bells and whistles while others are more straightforward. For instance, some integrate with thermometers and ovulation tests, while others require information to be input manually. Consider how you’ll want to use the app. What additional tools are you using to track your fertility? Do you want the ability to share your information with your partner or family? Is an online community important to you?
When to See a Fertility Specialist
While fertility-tracking apps can help people with ovaries be more aware of their menstrual cycle, they can’t actually help you achieve a pregnancy if you’re facing infertility issues. If you’ve been trying to get pregnant for one year (if you’re 35 or younger) or six months (if you’re older than 35), it’s time to see a fertility specialist.
At AZCREI, we can help identify the potential causes behind your infertility and provide treatment options to help you have your baby. The information recorded in the app will provide a helpful starting point for your testing and treatment journey. To make that first appointment, give us a call at (520) 326-0001 or schedule it online now.