A mixed methods exploratory study of women’s relationships with and uses of fertility tracking apps

Katie Gambier-Ross, David J McLernon, Heather Morgan

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Abstract

Digital self-tracking is rising, including tracking of menstrual cycles by women using fertility tracking apps (FTAs). However, little is known about users’ experiences of FTAs and their relationships with them. The aim of this study was to explore women’s uses of and relationships with FTAs. This exploratory study employed a mixed methods approach, involving the collection and analysis of an online survey and follow-up interviews. Qualitative analysis of survey and interview data informed hypothesis development. Online surveys yielded 241 responses and 11 follow-up interviews were conducted. Just over a third of women surveyed had experience of using FTAs (89/241) and follow-up interviews were conducted with a proportion of respondents (11/241). Four main motivations to use FTAs were identified: (a) to observe cycle (72%); (b) to conceive (34%); (c) to inform fertility treatment (12%); and (d) as contraception (4%). Analysis of the free-text survey questions and interviews using grounded theory methodology highlighted four themes underpinning women’s relationships with FTAs: (a) medical grounding; (b) health trackers versus non-trackers; (c) design; and (d) social and ethical aspects. Participants who used other health apps were more likely to use FTAs (p = 0.001). Respondents who used contraception were less likely to use FTAs compared with respondents who did not use contraception (p = 0.002). FTA usage also decreases (p = 0.001) as age increases. There was no association between FTA usage and menstrual status (p = 0.259). This research emphasises the differing motivations for FTA use. Future research should further explore the diverse relationships between different subgroups of women and FTAs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalDigital Health
Volume4
Early online date25 Jul 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Keywords

  • digital health
  • fertility
  • menstrual tracking
  • mixed methods
  • period tracking apps

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