Background: A number of menstrual cycle monitors have been developed to detect the fertile window of the menstrual cycle, mainly for contraceptive purposes. Reliable data on most of these systems are still missing but are urgently needed because many women use them and the tested systems differ enormously in price and effectiveness. We suggest a new efficacy estimating method to evaluate cycle monitors prior to full prospective clinical trials.
Methods: Sixty-two women prospectively tested seven cycle monitors and the symptothermal method (STM) of natural family planning (NFP) but not more than two different systems at the same time. The clinical fertile window was determined by detecting the day of ovulation using daily urinary LH measurements and daily ultrasonic folliculometry. This was compared to the fertile phase predicted by the systems. Maximum failure rates were estimated for each cycle monitor and the STM, using the daily conception probability rates taken from the European Fecundability Study. Intercourse was assumed to occur on each of all falsely predicted days of infertility.
Results: Sixty-two women with a mean age of 31 years (range: 21-42 years) contributed a total of 122 cycles to this study. Monitors based on the microscopic evaluation of saliva or mucus had many more false infertile days than the other methods based on temperature or hormonal measurements (225 versus 42 days). The maximum unintended pregnancy rates per cycle for temperature computers were estimated to be 0.0134-0.0336, for the hormonal computer 0.1155 and for mini-microscopes 0.2313-0.2369. For the STM of NFP, there were no false infertile days.
Conclusions: The STM of NFP proved to be the most effective contraceptive method to detect the fertile window among all the methods tested. The estimated efficacy of the other cycle monitors range from the temperature computers (upper level) to the hormonal computer (medium level) and the mini-microscopes with very low estimated contraceptive efficacy.