Infertility smartphone apps

August 26, 2013Carole 2 Comments »

Trying to solve infertility is the newest application for  smart phone apps. Recently, a flurry of products have come to market.

Kindara Fertility offers an app that lets you track your menstrual cycle by inputting various items (your basal body temperature, consistency of cervical mucous, date of menstrual bleeding, your intentions to avoid or encourage pregnancy) and generates a pretty monthly chart that “is the window into your fertility”. The free app goes beyond the traditional pencil and graph paper charting of basal body temperature but basically accomplishes the same thing. If you want to upgrade ($19.99) to the premium app, you can get feedback/advice from experts.

Ovuline produces a similar app, Smart Fertility,  to track your fertile periods on your smart phone. They will also sell you a kit containing supplies including 2 pregnancy kits, 2 ovulation tests. lubricant, basal thermometer, a month supply of both  male and female fertility vitamins for $50. I have not priced these items individually so don’t know if this is a bargain. As far as vitamins are concerned, it’s still not universally agreed that you need special “fertility ” vitamins. A once-a-day vitamin and a healthy diet probably accomplish as much for optimizing fertility. Once you conceive,  a second app, Smart Pregnancy,  allows you to track pregnancy milestones, like weight gain, nutrition, kicks, blood pressure, sleep etc.

In the UK, a company called DuoFertility markets a plan for optimizing your chance of conceiving using continuous monitoring of your body temp, using a wireless sensor that attaches to your skin like a little round band aid. To round out their offerings, you can pay for a multi-tiered program that includes expert advice. Although not yet combined with an iphone- you download your temperature readings to a computer to print out your graph- other companies like Ovuline are looking to incorporate readings from devices like these into their apps.

Another company, called Glow, also sells an app for monitoring your cycle. Like the others, it asks you to track your temperature, your mucous, your feelings etc, to and then creates a calender with green dates for best conception probability.These are only a few examples of apparently hundreds of menstrual cycle tracking infertility apps that have come (and gone) in this market.If you want to read about the business of infertility apps, here is a good article by Brian Dolan, called Digital health fertility services ramping up.

Interestingly, Glow also offers a scheme called Glow First for paying for IVF if you don’t get pregnant. Couples can pay into a fund ($50 dollars per month) for ten months. If you get pregnant before 10 months, your contributions stop.  At the end of 10 months, couples are either pregnant or not pregnant. If they are pregnant, they have donated $500 (or less, depending on when they got pregnant)  to the infertility fund to be shared among their non-pregnant peers. Non-pregnant couples split the fund among themselves at the end of 10 months and their share of the fund goes directly to a fertility clinic who will provide infertility services. There are no refunds so if you get pregnant but then, sadly, lose the pregnancy, you have made a non-refundable donation. I don’t know if it is considered tax-deductible. It is not clear how they decide who shares the pot when. Perhaps a new pot is generated for each sign up month which does not get disbursed until after 10 months?? I would probably want to ask a lot more questions before participating in this one but it shows the creative solutions being devised to  pay for infertility services.

What do I think about these apps? If you are just starting out trying to get pregnant and you like gadgets and self-monitoring, this might be a “sort of” fun way to better understand your menstrual cycle and when you might be most fertile during your cycle. If your cycles are really out of whack, this might be a way to find that out earlier rather than later. A thermometer and a piece of graph paper can roughly accomplish the same thing but isn’t much fun.

Unfortunately, these smart phone apps are mostly educational–which is NOT a bad thing– but they won’t be able to help with infertility due to a hormonal, genetic or structural problem. Even if you can pinpoint your fertile period down to the minute, if you have a problems like blocked tubes, a partner with no sperm, or poor quality eggs, these apps will still not help you get pregnant. These companies have to be careful not to oversell their products. These products work great for fertile people who just need to better understand their cycle.

The donation schemes like Glow First for funding IVF cycles seem like a poor substitute for actually covering infertility treatment like we cover most other medical problems. Imagine if you had to contribute $50 a month for ten months to a pool to get a coronary bypass. If you manage not to die before the 10 months are up, yipee!- you get part of the pool to help you pay for your coronary bypass. That’s crazy, right? On the other hand, GlowFirst’s scheme has some similarities to insurance pools. Our insurance premiums go into a pot of money that the insurance company manages. Some of that money that gets paid back out–but only to those that get sick. If you don’t get sick- you could feel cheated, I guess- or just rejoice in not being sick.  Why do we apply a different standard to infertility care? Maybe we need an app for that.



© 2013, Carole. All rights reserved.

2 Responses to this entry

  • Carole Says:

    Fertility Within Reach’s Founder Davina Fankhauser shares some come compelling facts on the costs of fertility insurance:

    Comprehensive infertility coverage may actually reduce premium expense by as much as $1 per member/ per month.
    Mercer, et al. found unnecessary medical procedures such as tubal surgery could be eliminated.
    The cost of infertility services as a percent of the total health care premiums went down after the 1987 Massachusetts mandate, with total infertility costs making up only 0.41% of the premium
    900 companies were surveyed in a 2006 employer survey conducted by consulting firm William M. Mercer. Of those that offered infertility coverage, 91% said they had NO INCREASE in healthcare costs as a result of adding this benefit.
    A ‘Comprehensive Review of Mandated Benefits in Massachusetts’ reported in July 2008 that primary state mandates, including infertility coverage, appeared to be cost effective.
    With infertility health benefits it is estimated there would be a reduction in:
    The use of mental health benefits
    Complications resulting from pregnancies with higher order multiple
    Less preterm birth/NICU expenses

    See the whole blog post here:

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