The return of the rhythm method
Wanner used the app Ovia—mostly for its calendar function, she says—so that she could alert her husband when the specific “48 or 72 hours in a given month that we could get pregnant” were imminent. By the spring of 2017, she was pregnant with her daughter. Wanner says Ovia was instrumental in achieving her first pregnancy; if she were to do it again, there’s not much she’d do differently. Except maybe next time, she’d want her husband to have access to her ovulation calendar, too.
Just about every fertility app available enables users to chart when they’ve had sex and note whether it was “protected” or “unprotected”—but for a lot of apps, that’s the only nod to the fact that it takes two participants to make a baby the old-fashioned way. It remains something of a novelty for apps to offer an option to share ovulation-cycle data with another user. Ovia offers the option of signing your partner up for alert emails when your “fertile window” is approaching (which Wanner and her husband were not aware of), but other popular apps, including Flo, Natural Cycles, PinkBird, Life, Period Calendar, and Kindara, are designed to be used by only the female partner in the conception process. (The last two have “export to doctor” and “share with a practitioner” functions, which export past data in a shareable format, but only Kindara allows the “practitioner” to follow along in real time.) As a result, what may seem like a small difference in design can have a noticeable effect on the emotional lives of heterosexual couples during the process of getting pregnant—and can upend or reinforce traditional ideas about whose responsibility it is to ensure that conception happens.
After a while, getting pregnant can become a numbers game. As Wanner puts it, “You get sort of sucked up into the mechanics of it, and a lot of the romance or the fun gets taken out.” So a partner-sharing feature, she muses, could help a male partner take more of an active role in planning; if a husband were able to, say, subtly note when to pick up a bottle of wine to make dinner at home a little more romantic, or when to wear a shirt his wife thinks he looks handsome in—without having to be nudged or summoned—it could add some fun back into the process.
Jennifer Tye, the chief operating officer of the fertility app Glow, says she’s heard from users that its partner-sharing feature does just that. “It actually helps remove the strain of what can otherwise become a very nonromantic and stressful process,” Tye says. “It’s supposed to be easy and fun to get pregnant. When you have to keep telling your partner, ‘Now's the time,’ it becomes very formulaic and methodical. It becomes even more unemotional in some ways.”
When Wanner thinks back on the process of trying for her daughter, she says a sharing feature might have also helped her get in the mind-set of sharing parenting duties with her husband. “Women tend to go through this process on their own: She’s bearing the child. She’s the one going through labor. She’s the one breastfeeding, if she chooses to breastfeed. There’s so much that can be so isolating from your partner,” Wanner says. Parenting, though, “is such a partnership, and [a fertility app’s partner-sharing feature] would set that dynamic early. That could be really useful.”