Science and technology are ready to monitor our fertility. That’s not what the Apple Watch does

Science and technology are ready to monitor our fertility.  That's not what the Apple Watch does

Apple has done it again. Buried amongst the amount of news brought by the latest eventCupertino’s brought improvements to the temperature sensor. Apple Watch Series 8 in order to increase the accuracy of the previous one, to provide information about the menstrual cycle and ovulation. This is good news and above all bad news.


Heat? Fertility? basal body temperature very relevant with the menstrual cycle. So much so that it has traditionally been one of the most popular systems as a way to a) predict fertile periods, b) predict low fertile periods (and use them as a method of contraception), and even c) detect a pregnancy. The truth is that it is not the most reliable method in the world because although this relationship is robust, there are many physiological variations that can alter the patterns of increase and decrease in basal temperature.

In fact, in most cases for certainty, are combined by monitoring cervical secretions during the cycle and recording hormones in the urine. But with the advent of permanent and real-time thermal monitoring systems, many researchers, developers, and entrepreneurs wondered if we could improve the reliability of the system with all this information.

But that’s not what Apple does.. As they say on The VergeApple paid close attention to the words. The line separating this from a product requiring US FDA (and I guess European EMA) approval is very good and of course Apple has decided to stay on this side of the line.

How does Apple’s method work? this Apple’s recommended function It has a very simple process: It takes the duration and general characteristics of previous periods and subtracts 13 days from the estimated start of the next cycle to essentially find the user’s fertility window. Six-day window for implementation. On this basis, users can manually add other information (such as ovulation test results). This lets you set forecasts and send notifications when the loop “deviates” from normal, but it doesn’t work miracles either.

And that’s good news and bad news. bad because like Rebecca Simmons says“Even if Apple says it shouldn’t be used for birth control,” said a fertility specialist at the University of Utah. […] people will use it as a birth control method.” And no, she’s not ready for that. Apple’s functionality drops a bit in half, if we’re being honest: it doesn’t even turn on latest science on the subject. It’s not incomprehensible: tackling the strict regulations of medical devices, in short, they can’t do well nor the great (and apparently, omnipotent) technologies of our time.

But by taking the step of democratizing these ‘thermal’ approaches, we missed an opportunity to have better menstrual cycle monitoring and control devices. Something that has generated more and more interest in recent years. And it was time to do it: when an actor like Apple seriously enters an industry, it turns it upside down. Moreover, it is often preferable for this push to be led by someone like Apple (with his position on privacy) rather than other actors; this is much more problematic. Unfortunately, the pressure here is not just moderate; but in some counter-productive contexts.

How can we make the most of what we already have?. This is a recurring problem in Apple’s approach to health. Overall, their scores much more potential than they are willing to realize. And as we approach the point of no return (where personalized medicine is an unacceptable reality), this hesitation to enter the world of health becomes something strange: reassuring on the one hand, and discouraging on the other.

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