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28 / 2 = 14? Really?

28 / 2 = 14? Really?

“How to get pregnant”—there are 3.3 million searches a month, on average, for this phrase in Google. For the 50 percent of couples who take more than six months to conceive, the answer to this question is not straightforward at all.

Among the more recent innovations addressing this problem are the flurry of fertility apps and ovulation calculators. They help women to track their cycles and pinpoint the most fertile days. They simplify our lives and, in an ideal world, should make the conception easier. Just note down the length of your cycle and the magic box tells you the ovulation date.

At the same time, there is a dark side to this. Most calculators are statistically primitive tools that can be unhelpful at best. At worst, they can mislead women into trying month after month to conceive on the wrong day! A typical calculator will simply take the length of our cycle and divide it by two. You have a twenty-eight-day cycle? Bam! Here is your ovulation on day fourteen.
 
This is plain wrong. A widely publicized study by Allen Wilcox (2000), shows that only 30 percent of women have their fertile window between days ten and seventeen of their cycle. The remaining 70 percent, a majority (!), would be misled by your typical ovulation calculator. As there is no such thing as a “standard woman,” one can’t attempt to solve such as an important problem with a standard calculator.

I am all for empowering women to use intelligent tools to improve their health. But when they are misled by pseudo-scientific technological innovations, it really angers me.

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