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Do cycle-tracking apps really help women avoid pregnancy or get pregnant?

HOUSTON – Whether you want to avoid pregnancy or get pregnant - there's an app for that!

A study from Georgetown University showed one popular family planning app - DOT - is about 95%, effective which is almost the same as the pill.

Other popular apps include Flo, Glow and Natural Cycles that monitor your most personal information with the idea that they can help you get pregnant or avoid it.

"The reality is, if your goal is pregnancy, or avoiding pregnancy, then knowing when you ovulate or release an egg is important," said Dr. Amy Schutt, a reproductive endocrinologist at Texas Children's Pavilion for Women.

Schutt agrees the apps can be beneficial for her patients to understand their fertility by tracking their cycles to better understand when they can conceive, but she warns that about 15% of women are irregular, which means this method will not work for them.

"It crunches the numbers and says you're going to ovulate on this day, have intercourse on these days to get pregnant, but if your cycles are irregular, it's guessing. It really doesn't know," Schutt explained.

That means it can still leave you open to getting pregnant if you don't want to or missing your fertility window if you do.

Plus, the intimate data you voluntarily plug into the app can be used in ways you may not want it to. So, use with caution.

"Even if an app is free, they're collecting a ton of data about you," Schutt said, "about your menstrual cycles, your intercourse patterns, your bleeding patterns, and using your data for marketing. So, even things that seem free through the app store are not entirely free."

Schutt also warns against the apps that encourage you to buy expensive accessories like watches to monitor your heart rate or temperature. She said she does not believe they're accurate enough to detect ovulation since the wearables cannot tell the difference between hormone changes and getting warm during a workout.