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Birds, Bees and Big Data: How One App Helped 50,000 Women Get Pregnant

Dan Tynan
Tech Columnist
Yahoo Tech
February 26, 2014

Birds, Bees and Big Data: How One App Helped 50,000 Women Get Pregnant

Dan Tynan
Tech Columnist
Yahoo Tech
February 26, 2014

Almost everyone over the age of 12 knows how babies are made. But big data is changing even that in a big way. At the very least, it’s making the process of getting pregnant a lot more predictable.

Today, Ovuline announced that more than 50,000 women have used its free Ovia Fertility app to help them get a bun in the oven. Thanks to Ovia’s data-based algorithms, they were able to conceive in about two months on average, CEO Paris Wallace said. That’s nearly three times faster than those who soldier on without the aid of science.

“Our mission is to use machine learning and big data sets to give women a clear, science-based roadmap that helps them conceive naturally and have a healthy pregnancy,” Wallace said.

Ovuline’s secret? It analyzes tens of millions of data points — everything from a woman’s basal temperature and blood pressure to her mood, food and the amount of sleep she’s gotten — and correlates them to the conditions that result in successful pregnancies. It will even grab some of this data from fitness trackers like the Jawbone UP or the Withings scales.

The app then helps calculate the optimal time to plant the seed — offering a daily fertility score and a forecast that provides advance notice for planning the magic moment.

For example, it turns out that a woman’s mood is a better predictor of ovulation than her body temperature, Wallace said. If she reports being confident and calm, then signs point to yes; if she’s stressed or depressed, you might as well just open a good book.

Perhaps more importantly, the app helps identify women who are suffering from fertility problems and can recommend specialists nearby who may be able to help. That’s how Ovuline makes its money — through referrals to physicians.

The numbers alone are pretty staggering, Wallace noted. Some 50,000 new users install the fertility app each month, contributing a million data points every three days. The app’s user base has increased by more than 700 percent in a year.

In November, the company introduced a second app, Ovia Pregnancy, using similar data to help customers bring babies safely to term and avoid potential health risks. Over time, Wallace hopes this data could be used to detect pregnancy earlier and predict due dates more accurately.

Ovuline is hardly the only company undergoing a big data baby boom. There are more than 100 fertility tracking apps in the iTunes Store. A leading competitor, Kindara, announced its 10,000th successful pregnancy earlier this week. In December, Glow passed the 1,000 pregnancies milestone.

Wanna-be parents have only just begun to use data to tell them when and how to procreate. You could say it’s a fertile area.