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People trying to get pregnant turn to period tracker apps for help and community

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Five years ago, Lacey Murga and her husband decided they wanted to have a baby.

But Murga’s menstrual cycle had always been irregular – she struggled to figure out the best time to try to conceive. So she searched online for ways to track her fertility and increase her chances of getting pregnant.

A quick search led her into the world of period-tracking apps and wearables that help users monitor their cycles to determine when they’re most fertile. The apps, which have grown in popularity over the past few years, predict a person’s chances of conceiving on a particular day based on individual data the user fills in daily, such as their temperature, ovulation test results and the start of her period.

Some use the apps just to track their cycles or as a natural form of birth control. But especially among people trying to conceive, many say these apps open up a world of online friends whose cycles align, or who can provide a second look at a pregnancy test, offer encouragement and support, or empathize when getting pregnant takes longer than expected.

“It was really helpful for me to have this community that I could go to, and we’re all in it together,” said Murga, 35. “With my real friends, I always felt a little uncomfortable talking about it. I didn’t want to talk about it as much as it was in my head because they hadn’t experienced it.”

Although many see these online communities as a way to cope with what can sometimes be a long journey towards pregnancy, some experts worry that forums can also be a breeding ground for misinformation, whether it’s misinformation about vaccines or articles with misleading headlines and clickbait.

Privacy advocates have raised concerns that after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned Roe v. Wade last month, information collected by period-tracking apps could become a liability if obtained by law enforcement.

Health data that people enter into most period-tracking apps is not protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, experts say.

“Apps follow you everywhere,” said Cynthia Sanchez, assistant clinical professor of nursing at USC’s Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. “I’m afraid they’ll send out ads claiming they can do things for infertility that they can’t.”

Sanchez said she tries to discourage her patients from using pregnancy prevention apps largely because she thinks they give “a false sense of security.”

“I don’t think they’re reliable enough,” she said. “If your periods are irregular, you might have trouble.”

But, she added, she supports how apps can foster a “community of women helping each other” online.

Fertility Friend, the app used by Murga, did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for another popular cycle tracking app, Glow, said in an emailed statement that “we will continue to protect the privacy and personal health information of our users without compromise. Period. “

“Our number one goal is to create the best products for our users and anything that violates their trust would be against our core values,” the rep said.

Dr. Yalda Afshar, a maternal-fetal medicine physician at UCLA Health, said while she doesn’t endorse a specific period tracker app, she does see them as one tool in the larger fertility awareness kit. .

“It’s not perfect science,” she said of the apps. “But it allows you to make a decision that’s right for you.”

Tala Rezai uses several fertility apps because she likes to compare their predictions to see if the different algorithms reach the same conclusion. Some, she says, are more accurate than others at predicting her ovulation cycle.

The 39-year-old, who lives in Los Angeles, regularly adds information to apps, listing the day she starts her period and the results of ovulation test strips. The apps are user-friendly, she said, and help take the guesswork out of tracking her fertile window.

“It’s an overall easy process,” said Rezai, who has a 4-year-old daughter.

But Rezai, a lawyer, is slightly skeptical of the community that exists in the forums.

“Are they really real? Does anyone really use these acronyms, or is it something the apps have decided?” she says.

The vernacular may be surprising to people encountering abbreviations such as “TTC” (trying to conceive) or “DH” (dear husband) for the first time. There are also terms such as ‘eyes aligned’, which people use when asking for a second opinion on a home pregnancy test, and ‘TWW’ – the two-week waiting period between ovulation and pregnancy. when someone can test for pregnancy.

“If it does [people] feel better on their journey, then go for it. But for me, it’s weird,” Rezai said.

For Murga, it was the sense of community that kept her coming back to the app and posting on the forums, asking for example if the potential signs of pregnancy she was experiencing were normal. She would snap a picture of her ovulation tests and ask others to confirm if they looked positive, giving her the green light to “try it out” with her husband. The answers to her questions gave her the reassurance she was looking for.

“When you’re trying to conceive and you want it so badly, you read every sign or symptom,” said Murga, who now has a one-year-old son. “You’re trying to get that support from people going through that.”

At first, she was confused by the jargon people use to describe their fertility journeys.

“Someone would say ‘BD’ and I would have to google, ‘What does BD mean in fertility?'” Murga said. “To this day, I’m like, why can’t you spell it? Why is it ‘baby dance’? Just say you had sex.”

For Murga, who lives in Encino, the app has also created an opportunity to make friends online and in person. She keeps in touch with women in Texas, Florida and Missouri whom she met because they were taking their pregnancy tests around the same time.

The conversations continued beyond the comment threads, and the women felt a sense of camaraderie as they updated each other on their fertility journeys — and their lives — outside of the app.

When a Florida woman she befriended traveled to Los Angeles, Murga made sure to have dinner with her so they could meet up in person.

Another woman, Billye Brenneisen, lived nearby and became a friend.

“It’s like a modern-day pen pal,” said Brenneisen, a photographer who first met Murga online in 2018. “It’s been so wonderful to see her dream come true in terms of motherhood. is a super intimate journey and can be really isolating for a lot of people.”

Brenneisen downloaded the app because she wanted to know when she was ovulating. The tracker, she said, helped her realize she was ovulating later in her cycle than considered average and allowed her and her husband to “target our efforts”. .

“The whole journey of trying to conceive took time and there were losses,” the 37-year-old said. “It was tumultuous and there were the [ovulation predictor kits] and track symptoms and how many times you had sex and when.”

Those who don’t use apps track their cycles in other ways, such as writing down when they have their period each month (the analog version of recording data on a cellphone) or measuring changes in their cervical mucus.

For some, the process can be isolating, especially if it takes longer than expected to conceive or if a couple navigates infertility. Some say they think there is still a stigma attached to fertility issues or miscarriages, which can make the process more difficult to address.

Fertility apps have broken down the walls that surround what can sometimes be a difficult and lonely journey to pregnancy, Brenneisen said.

“While your partner may be supportive, they don’t really go through it, so it was nice to have that community going through who I was,” she added. “I felt like I was losing my mind every two weeks.”

Brenneisen and Murga, who live about 15 minutes apart, first met in person about two years ago. Murga was pregnant and Brenneisen had her young daughter. They went for a walk in the neighborhood, stroller and dog in tow.

“We talked and it was completely normal because it’s like we already know each other,” Murga said.

“It was a bit surreal,” added Brenneisen.

Although they don’t see each other regularly, the couple talk to each other a few times a week. They were part of important moments in each other’s lives.

Last month, Brenneisen took pictures of Murga’s son on his first birthday. It was good, says the photographer, “to see us come around the corner with all that.”


Timed sex for couples can increase chances of pregnancy


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Quote: People trying to get pregnant turn to period tracker apps for help and the community (2022, July 21) Retrieved July 22, 2022 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-07 -people-pregnant-period-tracking-apps.html

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