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Family-planning app Dot launches first-of-its-kind efficacy study

Can you prevent pregnancy with a mobile app? A Georgetown study funded by USAID aims to find out.

The Dot app interface. (Screenshot)

When we first wrote about the Dynamic Optimal Timing app (charmingly known as Dotin October 2015, the team behind the family-planning helper had determined, via computer modeling, that the app is 97 percent effective at preventing pregnancy. But in order to sustain consumer confidence in app-based pregnancy prevention, Leslie Heyer, founder of parent company Cycle Technologies, knew they needed a real-world study.

And that’s exactly what researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center’s Institute for Reproductive Health launched this month. The study, believed to the the first of its kind, will be conducted using around 1,200 Dot Android users. It aims to assess the efficacy of Dot in preventing pregnancy both when it is used perfectly and under “typical” use.

Recall — Dot gives users information on their fertility on any given day of the month using only the user’s period start date and proprietary back-end statistics.

“Dot users have a historical opportunity to advance the science of birth control and family planning,” Heyer said in a statement. “No fertility app has undergone such rigorous testing. Users who join our effort can help make free, effective fertility tools accessible to women throughout the world.”

Indeed, accessibility is one of the most attractive aspects of Dot. Many women around the world lack access to family planning methods, but have a smartphone. And the potential market for Dot goes beyond just those with lack of access — researchers say women who are concerned about the safety of other contraceptive methods (like the pill) could be other key users. Particularly if Dot is proven to be within a similar range of effectiveness.

The study, funded by USAID, will track users of the app for 13 menstrual cycles, asking questions about the users cycles, sexual activity and more. Findings are expected in September 2018.

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