In today’s world there has been a growing number of women using mobile applications to monitor their menstrual cycle and maternal health systems during pre and post-natal. Most of this apps are desired due to the claim of providing accurate and reliable information regarding the ovulation cycle, fertility days and rates, pregnancy days counter and other related sexual reproductive mechanisms. Many who have used and depended on these monitor applications have in the end regretted as the results weren’t as detected by the applications and some have ended up with unwanted pregnancies, births and other scenarios which have affected their livelihood, mental status and future plans.
It was indicated by the State of the World Population Report 2019 that over 800,000 women in Uganda alone get unwanted pregnancies in a year of which only 26% were recorded among married women and 43% among sexually active unmarried women. Some of the causes for the unwanted pregnancies have been constant to include limited use of modern contraceptives which is associated to the lack of access to quality sexual and reproductive health services and information, poverty, distance, stigma, and cultural norms that prevent them from seeking professional advice or care.
Other women due to misinformation from the society have developed misconceptions and fears about the side effects or safety of contraceptive methods.
Therefore, some women have resorted to the use of mobile applications such as myflo, period trackers among others as an affordable and convenient option for those that wish to detect their menstrual cycle and detect their birth periods.
However, things don’t always turn out well as these provide wrong information to the users. Not forgetting the science behind these apps is that most of them rely
on algorithms that they use to calculate fertility days considering the average fed length of menstrual cycles. We should not forget that most cycles are affected by a number of issues such as stress, illnesses and the type of medication used for specific diseases. These applications are not regulated and their use is dependent on their accuracy or effectiveness by given users who recommend to others and in the end, some tend to provide misleading or incorrect information about abortion, emergency contraception, or sexually transmitted infections.
The use of the unregulated mobile apps for reproductive health reasons has numerous ethical and legal challenges as some apps collect and share personal data without the user’s consent or knowledge, which in the end compromises the privacy and security of the users. Other apps influence the user’s decision-making or behavior such as encouraging users to conceive since the algorithm dictates the fertility rate to be high without providing adequate information or counseling.
Therefore, while mobile apps are very important in boosting awareness and knowledge around reproductive health, they should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice or care. Women are advised to always consult a professional health worker who has reliable information about reproductive health rights as these are trained on how to handle different menstrual reactions. As we continue to advocate for a regulatory framework to govern the use of digital tools within the health sector with reduce and zero harm to patients, the duty now belongs to all of us to be informed before using these mobile applications.
This in the end will help to reduce the rate of unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortion, and improve the health and rights of women in Uganda.