Original Article

User profile and preferences in fertility apps for preventing pregnancy: an exploratory pilot study

Mary Summer Starling, Zosha Kandel, Liya Haile, Rebecca G. Simmons


Background: The rapid proliferation of fertility apps has created a market that has the potential to address the needs of women and couples worldwide. Some women who seek to prevent pregnancy are making behavioral decisions based on information they receive from fertility apps, yet fertility apps may not always be accurate and reliance on them could lead to unintended pregnancies. Little research has been done to understand who uses fertility apps for pregnancy prevention, how those who use them perceive their efficacy, and their preferences for how apps should be designed and presented to accurately assist them in preventing pregnancy.
Methods: A web-based pilot survey was launched through Facebook recruiting women who either currently use a fertility app for pregnancy prevention or intend to use one in the future. Data collected from 1,000 women surveyed user preferences around fertility app characteristics, including aesthetics, features, functionality, and reputation. User knowledge about fertility and reproduction was assessed, and knowledge categories were created. Chi-square tests assessed differences in app characteristic preferences according to knowledge category. Additional qualitative analyses on free-text answers explored which features of apps are important to users when they search for one to use.
Results: Approximately one quarter (23.1%) of survey respondents reported currently using a fertility app or had used one in the recent past, and 76.9% reported intention to use one in the future. A majority of both current and intended users (65.4%) had some knowledge of fertility and reproduction, while 16.5% had very little knowledge. 18.1% reported receiving prior provider counseling on using a fertility-awareness based method. Users across all knowledge groups said it was very important for apps to be science-based and that they identify fertile days during the menstrual cycle.
Conclusions: Women who use or wish to use apps to prevent pregnancy are seeking apps that are scientifically sound and provide them personalized information around their potential fertility. However, most fertility apps women reported using lack the capability for true fertility-awareness based method application for accurate, reliable pregnancy prevention. More research is needed to evaluate apps for efficacy and accuracy preventing pregnancy. Collaborations between app developers and women’s health experts are encouraged, as well as informed consumerism campaigns.

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