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Use of menstruation and fertility app trackers: a scoping review of the evidence
  1. Sarah Earle1,
  2. Hannah R Marston2,
  3. Robin Hadley3,
  4. Duncan Banks4
  1. 1School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK
  2. 2Health and Wellbeing Priority Research Area, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK
  3. 3Independent Researcher, Manchester, UK
  4. 4School of Life, Health & Chemical Sciences, The Open University, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Hannah R Marston, Health and Wellbeing Priority Research Area, The Open University, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK; Hannah.Marston{at}open.ac.uk

Abstract

Introduction There has been a phenomenal worldwide increase in the development and use of mobile health applications (mHealth apps) that monitor menstruation and fertility. Critics argue that many of the apps are inaccurate and lack evidence from either clinical trials or user experience. The aim of this scoping review is to provide an overview of the research literature on mHealth apps that track menstruation and fertility.

Methods This project followed the PRISMA Extension for Scoping Reviews. The ACM, CINAHL, Google Scholar, PubMed and Scopus databases were searched for material published between 1 January 2010 and 30 April 2019. Data summary and synthesis were used to chart and analyse the data.

Results In total 654 records were reviewed. Subsequently, 135 duplicate records and 501 records that did not meet the inclusion criteria were removed. Eighteen records from 13 countries form the basis of this review. The papers reviewed cover a variety of disciplinary and methodological frameworks. Three main themes were identified: fertility and reproductive health tracking, pregnancy planning, and pregnancy prevention.

Conclusions Motivations for fertility app use are varied, overlap and change over time, although women want apps that are accurate and evidence-based regardless of whether they are tracking their fertility, planning a pregnancy or using the app as a form of contraception. There is a lack of critical debate and engagement in the development, evaluation, usage and regulation of fertility and menstruation apps. The paucity of evidence-based research and absence of fertility, health professionals and users in studies is raised.

  • mobile apps
  • pregnancy
  • fertility
  • menstruation
  • self-tracking
  • contraception
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Footnotes

  • Twitter @drsaraearle, @HannahRMarston, @RobinHadley1, @duncan_banks

  • Contributors HRM and DB conceptualised the review, HRM project managed with RH conducting the database searches. HRM, DB and SE conducted the decisions for the paper selection and SE conducted paper analysis using NVivo. HRM, SE and RH wrote the article. All authors proofread and signed off on the article prior to submission.

  • Funding Funding [£3,000.00] was received by DB, HRM and SE via the Synergy Programme in the School of Life, Health and Chemical Sciences, Faculty of STEM, The Open University.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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