When I was in my teens, my parents were editors of the International Review of Natural Family Planning. They would sit across the kitchen table from each other and read out each article word by word, punctuation by punctuation, making sure that the typeset matched the original manuscript before publication. This meant that every day after school, while I was making a PB&J, I was bombarded by words like “coitus” and “mucus.” It was an interesting experience to say the least.
Looking back I am proud that my parents were part of a movement focused on women’s health. A movement that spent years researching the menstrual cycle and gave us the fertility awareness techniques we enjoy today.
Those techniques are getting even more tech-savvy. Similar to the Fit Bit which tracks daily activity and sleep patterns, there are new wearable technologies that will use natural family planning methods to help us women track our cycles. From Wearable.com‘s very unfortunately titled “The Quantified Woman“:
Over the past few years, fertility tracking apps, like Clue and Glow, have been slowly evolving from souped-up calendars to holistic data centres. Instead of collecting a list of dates and filling our screens with pink butterfly designs, they are now smart, usable and effective; more recently employing the help of separate wearable devices to make data tracking even more accurate….
The most obvious value in this new influx is that they provide women with more knowledge about their bodies, enabling them to feel empowered when it comes to their reproductive health and make more informed decisions. Aside from that there’s the fact that they’re all informed by a significant amount of scientific research, they’re easy to use, the data they provide is actually useful and many are slowly starting to filter into the wider quantified health ecosystem….
The most popular by far in this category is Clue. It’s a fertility tracking app that has redefined what it means to track your periods — replacing twee, condescending images and language with a matter-of-fact app that now has hundreds of thousands of dedicated users. You have the freedom to simply input when your period is with functions right through through to tracking your mood, activities, medicines, body temperature, cervical mucus and all kinds of other physical health indicators.
A number of companies are taking what the likes of Clue are doing one step further, building tech that makes the data collection step even more accurate and infallible. One of the most accurate ways to do this is to track temperature.
This is because a hugely important metric in the FAM is Basal Body Temperature, or BBT (you can’t get away from the acronyms when discussing fertility)….
Ayda, a company pioneering a wearable thermometer that sits on the back of the arm to take skin readings, is still in development. But Foody is confident that removing possible errors is the best way to get the most accurate readings.
“The Ayda wearable was developed by a team of biomedical engineers to detect minute core body temperature changes and takes thousands of readings throughout the night,” he explained. “By removing the potential for human error and introducing this level of technical accuracy, Ayda produces data that is much more reliable and clinically relevant than the oral thermometer method. Combined with the other tracking features in the Ayda app – the combined solution makes for an unparalleled level of fertility tracking efficacy.”
Dr. Helen Webberley said that, when done right, fertility tracking can be incredibly accurate. And she also agreed with Tin, that building up a detailed holistic picture is more important than obsessing over the accuracy of one or two metrics.
“This is particularly true when a combination of the various required parameters are inputted: basal body temperature, nature of cervical mucus, position of the cervix, day of the cycle. With this information you can get a really good prediction of when you are fertile,” she told us.
My gut is telling me fertility wearables may become extremely popular as women find out more about the dangers of the the pill and other artificial birth control methods. Anything that makes women more aware of their natural fertility and gets them to reconsider popping oral contraception is a good thing.
This is one more place where the Church has been wrongly accused of being “anti-science.” This wearable technology is built on the work of good Catholics (and others) who stood against the tide researching and promoting natural family planning when the pill seemed like all women would ever need.
I can still hear it like it was yesterday… “c-e-r-v-i-c-a-l m-u-c-u-s, dot, end quote.”
Rebecca Taylor blogs at Mary Meets Dolly