Online fertility monitoring: some of the issues

Simon Brown, Leonard F. Blackwell, Delwyn G. Cooke


Many women choose to monitor their menstrual cycle and a variety of physiologically relevant measurements are employed.  The demand is so great that many apps and devices are now available and online monitoring is imminent.  However, many of the current apps are unreliable for at least two reasons.  First, it is often the case that the data collected are not meaningful because they are not obtained reproducibly. Second, it is not sufficiently appreciated that reliable menstrual cycle data can be difficult to interpret because cycles are often physiologically complex.  Errors in the monitoring or  interpretation of the menstrual cycle can have serious and prolonged repercussions.  The reliability of online menstrual cycle monitoring should be based on the best possible measurements and the most appropriate analysis informed by extensive experience in the interpretation of the data.  The prospect of online monitoring raises issues of privacy, rights to data and the uses to which they might be put.  Women have to be aware of these issues and providers bear the responsibility for ensuring that there is no ambiguity.  The networking of menstrual cycle monitoring provides an opportunity to reverse the current tendency for the data to be in silos.  The accumulating data could be used to assist in improving the measurements and the analytical tools, but this relies on the informed cooperation of women, the willingness of providers and open communication.

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