Apps that track menstrual cycles and calculate ovulation windows or provide information on pregnancy and childrearing form part of a new industry called FemTech. FemTech is any technology geared toward improving women's lives and it’s taking off in all sorts of directions.
These include different fertility solutions, pelvic healthcare issues, women’s sexual wellness as well as pregnancy and nursing care.
Natural Cycles is the latest amongst them. Natural Cycles is a “birth control” app that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the US. The app has already been approved as a medical device in Europe. It is marketed as the first smartphone app to prevent pregnancy.
Developed by Stockholm company, Natural Cycles, the app works by detecting a woman’s ovulation and calculating her fertile days by taking a number of factors into account. All a woman has to do is take her temperature every morning when she wakes up and enters the reading into the app. An algorithm that accurately detects and predicts ovulation and fertility then tells her via color coding where she is in her menstruation cycle. Fertile days are indicated as red and women are advised to be careful or abstain altogether; green days day are safe non-fertile days.
This app will work for women who are prepared to check their temperature every day with a basal body thermometer.
“Consumers are increasingly using digital health technologies to inform their everyday health decisions, and this new app can provide an effective method of contraception if it’s used carefully and correctly,” said Terri Cornelison, assistant director for the health of women in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, in a statement.
Cornelison reminds women that no form of contraception is foolproof so an unplanned pregnancy could still result from correct usage of this device. Nonetheless, the research figures are reassuring.
Natural Cycles has performed a study of the menstrual cycles of 22,785 women and found that the app was effective in preventing pregnancy with 93 % of the time.
A woman can fall pregnant using the app for various reasons. She could have ignored the red day warning, the app could be wrong about a green day, or the contraceptive method chosen could have failed.
We also recently reported on Lia, the pregnancy test that keeps pregnancy test results private – for the woman’s eyes only.
With Lia no wondering eyes will discover your test result in the trash – you can dispose of it in the toilet after use.
Lia is made of the same natural plant fibers as most toilet paper and is tested to be 100% biodegradable, dispersing completely in water. It contains no plastic so it won’t wound up in a landfill somewhere like traditional pregnancy tests. The product was developed by Lia Diagnostic in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Bloomlife, is another company focused on the wellbeing of mothers and their babies. Bloomlife created the world’s first clinically validated wearable for pregnant women that tracks and counts contractions sending the information directly to an app on your phone. The wearable is a small sensor that is attached to your stomach. It automatically keeps track of contractions, their length and how far they are apart while you go about your business.
You may be thinking: who goes about their daily business while experiencing contractions?! Well, different women experience different sensations and it’s not always clear if these are contractions or not. Some women experience Braxton Hicks contractions which are not labor contractions – they don’t increase in intensity and don’t lead to actual labor.
By being accurately informed of the frequency and severity of the contractions, a woman has a better idea of how far along she is in labor or whether she is actually in labor.
Apps going local
A new development is apps for women’s health that are being developed by local organizations for their own patients.
An example of this new trend is the St. Mary's Moments phone app. The app provides overall guidance to women’s health. The phone app guides pregnant moms through their baby's development, including infant immunizations and all the stages in between, reports The Daily Sentinel.
St. Mary's Moments phone app covers a broad range of services for women and children including weekly gestational changes for pregnant moms, labor and delivery, postpartum care and breastfeeding assistance. It also includes convenient links for St. Mary's childbirth class registration, contraction timers and feeding logs. All the services are built into the app designed specifically for St. Mary's.
It will be interesting to see if other medical institutions follow the St. Mary example. My guess is that this kind of service will become ubiquitous.