What You Need To Know About Contraception And Fertility Apps

by Karen Johnson
Originally Published: 
Image via Cycle Technologies

If you ask our parents’ and grandparents’ generations, many of them will say that the invention and mainstream availability of the birth control pill was one the greatest things to ever happen to women. The pill brought them a sense of security, autonomy, and empowerment. Because of this modern form of contraception, women of the 1960s could finally have sex without fear of getting pregnant. It changed everything.

However, according to a recent study conducted by Power to Decide and Cosmo, the heyday of the pill may be coming to a close. Today’s women are turning to—what else? Apps, of course, to control their reproductive health.

In the age of the smart phone, when “there’s an app for that” means that, literally, there is an app for everything, even preventing and/or planning pregnancies is now something millennials are doing via iPhone or Android device. In the interest of avoiding side-effects and/or putting hormones into their bodies, many of today’s women are saying no thanks to the pregnancy-preventative methods of decades past, such as the pill. They’re choosing apps instead.

This smart phone generation is turning to apps like Dot to track their reproductive cycles as opposed to popping a pill every morning. And companies like Cycle Technologies (which created Dot) see this trend and want to help today’s women do just that—have power over their reproductive health, using safe, tech-savvy means to do it.

“We create brilliantly simple family planning solutions to help address women’s reproductive needs,” Cycle Technologies says. “All of our family planning innovations can be used to both plan — or prevent pregnancy — making them a safe, modern alternative for women who are interested in effective, side-effect free, contraceptive options.” And founder Leslie Heyer says apps like Dot, that have undergone full-scale efficacy studies and that have been proven to be highly effective, are exactly what millennial women want.

The best part of this new-age method of contraception is how it empowers women not only to prevent unwanted pregnancies, but also teaches them about their bodies, how their cycles work, and how and when they can get pregnant should they choose to do so. After decades of contraption being based on fear, now women are actually learning how and why their bodies do what they do. The same apps that help them prevent pregnancies also can help them get pregnant. If that’s not empowering, I don’t know what is.

Heyer does caution, however, that women should take precautionary steps if they plan to use contraceptive apps to prevent and/or plan a pregnancy. First of all, she implores women to do their research. The app industry is booming, which can lead to false information or ineffective apps appearing on search engines. A trustworthy contraceptive app will have concrete scientific backing and well-researched evidence to support its methods. Also, Heyer reminds users that the companies who create these apps receive your personal information, so make sure they are reputable and have proper privacy policies clearly stated.

Heyer also states the very important reminder that apps like Dot send the user a risk analysis, stating which days are high and which days are low for pregnancy risk. It’s important that users understand these risks and use alternative methods, such as condoms or abstinence, based on the information the app provides.

She also wants women to remember that like the pill and hormonal contraception, apps do not protect against STIs, so that’s another piece of sexual health that must be managed outside of these apps. Also, women with extremely irregular cycles (shorter than 20 days or longer than 40) can still track with the app, but should also definitely talk to their doctors, as this could be a sign of other health issues. And they should use alternative contraception, as apps aren’t going to be effective for a woman with such extremes in their cycles.

And finally, Heyer reminds app users that if they are transitioning off of hormonal birth control, it might take a while for the hormones to fully leave their system. A good app will provide specific instructions about how to safely handle this transition. Dot, for example, suggests the woman track for two full cycles while still using alternative contraception (like condoms or abstinence) before relying fully on the tracker.

So this is the new thing, ladies. Apps run the world these days—even family planning. And while it’s always a good thing to embrace the conveniences of modern technology, it’s equally as important to educate ourselves about the risks. Women should always consult their doctors about their reproductive health. They should also know how the apps work, do the research to ensure they are choosing one with a proven high efficacy rate, and take additional precautions when needed. Just like any other method, there are no 100% guarantees when you’re having sex.

Most importantly, women can use this modern technology to learn about how amazing their bodies are. Gone are the days of scare-tactics, guilt, and shame. Instead, 21st century women get to own their reproductive decisions like never before.

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