Picking a contraceptive? There's an app for that

Have you ever left your doctor’s office with a seemingly mysterious contraceptive prescription? Or wondered which birth control options are out there beyond the advice of your friend’s sister’s cousin who liked the pill?  

Despite still not having access to Uber, UBC is about to get an app for that.

Dr. Flora Teng, a clinical professor in UBC’s faculty of obstetrics and gynecology, is working to develop an app that will allow women to explore their contraceptive options before stepping foot into a doctor’s office.    

“You usually look at either what [birth control methods] friends use or what personally you’ve used before,” said Teng. “You may have some misconceptions about the other options that are available which may fit you better.”   

The app, Just Right, will ask women to rank their preferences for different characteristics like privacy, affordability and convenience in addition to asking them basic questions about their lifestyle. After accounting for their answers, a ranked list of contraceptive options will appear along with an explanation of how each method works, its pros and cons, and an approximate cost to the user.    

The Ubyssey’s previous coverage of contraception at UBC gives a wide overview of some of the options available to students, and Teng agrees that what ultimately matters is that you use your chosen method of contraception correctly.     

“Rather than the medical side, we’re more so focusing on the practical side of things that get in the way of women using contraception as best as they want ... which sometimes is not discussed at a doctor’s visit,” said Teng, who cited cost, family beliefs and partner preferences as factors that may impact a woman’s choice regarding birth control in addition to medical reasons.   

Working in partnership with the Centre for Health Evaluation and Outcome Sciences (CHEOS) and under the umbrella of the Contraception Access Research Team at UBC, Teng wants to make the program a reality in website format by the summer of 2017. Right now, the main challenge is ensuring that the right questions and deciding factors for women are included in the app’s reasoning process.    

“Our goal is to have as many women as possible from as many different walks of life as possible use [Just Right], work through it and give us feedback so that we can find out what works,” said Teng. “The more feedback we get, the better it can be for women going forward.”

Ultimately, Teng hopes that the finished product will be able to help women make a more informed and effective decision for their contraceptive needs.   

“Once you bring this information to the doctor, it becomes a medical decision,” said Teng. “But if you have an idea of what birth control method could work for you before you actually go in to see your doctor, you’re much more informed and you can make a choice that hopefully will work better and last longer.”   

UBC students, staff and faculty members wishing to participate in testing the app in the new year may contact the study coordinator, Sarina Prasad, at sarina.prasad@alumni.ubc.ca for further information.    

The Wellness Centre and Student Health Services’ online resources offer more information about birth control options available at UBC.