“There’s an app for that” is the siren song of the 21st century. And the U.S. military is certainly hoping that’s the case for service members looking to avoid unexpected pregnancies.
“Women in the military have a high rate of unintended pregnancies, which is an issue both personally and with respect to the warfighting mission,” according to a study in the latest issue of Military Medicine. “Comprehensive education about and access to counseling for the full range of contraceptives have been identified as gaps in provision of the highest quality health care for servicewomen.”
In March 2021, the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences (USU), Defense Health Agency, and the University of California San Francisco developed a mobile application called “Decide + Be Ready,” which is meant to offer family planning options to servicewomen, to include everything from education to birth control.
However, despite its release and the fact that it is available for free to download on Apple and Android devices, “Obstacles to full implementation of Decide + Be Ready remain within the Military Health System,” according to the authors of the latest study.
“There are a lot of applications that help women record their cycles, when they’re fertile and not fertile, and this app is different,” said Col. Catherine Witkop, a retired Airman and professor of Preventive Medicine and Gynecologic Surgery & Obstetrics at USU in the March release. “This app provides a lot of information about contraception and helps patients identify their own preferences and which, if any, contraception they’re interested in using.”
Witkop and fellow authors utilized the study to create a roadmap to optimize the application and ensure servicewomen have access to the information they need to make the best decisions regarding their reproductive health.
The application is simple and rated for anyone ages 12 and older. After reading through a quick guide, the app takes you to a portal to create your own birth control profile.
It asks questions about your plans to have children, how effective you’d want your birth control to be at preventing pregnancy, and it has a rating system for types of birth control and what you’d like it to do for you medically.
For service members specifically, the app explains best birth control options for deployment like skipped periods and annual family planning, rather than month-to-month.
“The use of Decide + Be Ready can be a first step in ensuring that, at the very least, servicewomen are aware of all their options, educated about the characteristics of the methods, including their role in menstrual suppression, and can come to an understanding of their own preferences and values, which is critical if they are to act as active agents in a shared decision,” the study reads. “If shared decision-making is subsequently successfully carried out in a clinical encounter, the patient will be reassured that their preferences and values matter and that the choice of contraceptive method, barring any medical contraindications, can be their decision.”
Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digital Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.