The Problem with Using Ovulation Tracker Apps when Trying to Conceive

Do you use a fertility app or online calculator to predict your fertile window? If you do, maybe you’ve read about the recent study that tested whether the top 53 websites and smartphone apps work to predict a woman’s fertile window? If you missed it, Time Magazine explained: Dr. Robert Setton and his team found that the majority of these online prediction tools do not work (source). Dr. Setton admitted that they were surprised by the results and had assumed that they were accurate. Afterall, the math behind the ‘gold standard method’ to predict the fertile window is quite simple. They found, however, only 4 out of the 53 accurately predicted the fertile window! Many of the apps said that the window for optimal conception included days after ovulation. However, the chances of getting pregnant the days after you ovulate are close to zero.

What The Doctors Found:

The researchers calculated a typical cycle of 28 days and 4 days of menses based on the medical gold started for predicting a woman's fertile window. The calculation predicts a woman’s ‘fertile window’ which includes the day she ovulates and the five days before ovulation. The research team put in a period starting January 1st, which means that the fertile window would land on the days between January 10 through 15. They then plugged in the same information into the top 20 websites and 33 apps to predict the fertile window. If the apps matched their calculation, the app was deemed accurate.

While many of the websites and apps included at least one fertile day in their predicted window, only one website and three apps came up with the same fertile window. Some did not even say when ovulation would occur, many showed the fertile window including days after ovulation and some showed the fertile window being as many as 12 days long. The ones that worked, by the way,  included the Babymed.com site and the apps Clue; My Days - Period & Ovulation; and Period Tracker.

Why The Gold Standard Method Doesn’t Really Work In The First Place:

What the research does not explain, however, is that while the ‘gold standard method’ for predicting fertility can be helpful, it’s only a guess.  Many women have irregular cycles  that are not taken into account by fertility apps and calendar calculations and therefore, the gold standard method in itself is inaccurate (source). 

What You Can Do If You Are Trying To Conceive:

Currently, each method to predict your fertile window has advantages and disadvantages. More accurate methods such as fertility monitors and cervical mucus tracking take up a lot of time and effort, while other methods such as calculators and LH sticks leave room for error and you may miss the fertile window. What you want to look for is a dip in temperature that occurs before ovulation. This is one of the most accurate measures to predict your fertile window.

Want to learn about how to find your fertile window? Click here for your Quick Guide to Ovulation Methods