A new study has found that the natural fertility app, Dot, is as effective as other modern methods for avoiding an unplanned pregnancy.

Researchers from the Institute for Reproductive Health (IRH) at Georgetown University Medical Center studied a group of women's use of the Dot app over 13 menstrual cycles.

Their study, published in the European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Healthcare, is the first to test a fertility app using best-practice guidelines for assessing effectiveness of family planning methods.

Dot's algorithm predicts pregnancy risk for each day of a woman’s menstrual cycle, flagging days of high and low fertility, based on the start date of a woman's period. As the app “learns” about a woman’s cycle over time, it personalizes the user's fertile window — the days when pregnancy is possible.

The FAQ section of Dot’s website states:

Dot does not require you to track other fertility signs such as temperature or secretion. This information is not needed to use this method, but you can track it in the Notes feature if you would like.

I can only conclude from this that, while simple, Dot does not actually utilise all the information available to women to track their fertile days as accurately as they could, and therefore must have a larger number of flagged potentially fertile days because of cautious adjustments for differences in cycle length. 

Other methods of natural family planning rely only on fertility signs which accurately predict ovulation, rather than cycle length, and therefore pinpoint fertile days more exactly.  (See Ovagraph for an example of one such app aimed at fertility tracking and conception).  While these signs are easy to learn and enable a greater degree of accuracy, Dot is attractive because of its absolute simplicity.  It shows that even very basic methods of natural family planning can be very effective. 

The participant profile reflected the general United States population of women aged 18-39. The researchers found no association between pregnancy and sociodemographic characteristics such as age, ethnicity, and relationship status.  Victoria Jennings, PhD, principal investigator of the Dot effectiveness study and director of the IRH commented:

“This is a particularly important finding because it suggests that Dot can be appropriate for a wide range of women.  Given the widespread use of mobile technology, a digital method like Dot has the potential to reach many women with an unmet need for family planning.”

Natural family planning methods are increasing in popularity, and are of particular benefit to women in developing countries, many of whom already utilise them. 

They are attractive because they are entirely natural, are not ever abortifacient, are better for the environment, mean women do not have to override their own finely balanced hormonal systems with fake hormones and, in most cases, cost absolutely nothing at all to use.

There are also an increasing number of digital aids on the market, making using them even more convenient and easy.

Shannon Roberts

Shannon Roberts is co-editor of MercatorNet's blog on population issues, Demography is Destiny. While she has a background as a barrister, writing has been a life-long passion and she has contributed...