Random header image... Refresh for more!

How Wrong is the Wonder Clock App? Let Me Count the Ways

I was reading through a backlog of posts in my Reader from during the power outage, and I came across this gem from the Huffington Post about a new app that tells you — down to the second — the moment YOU WILL BECOME INFERTILE.

I screamed that because I wanted to scare you.  But then I remembered that all of you are infertile too, so it probably didn’t work.

The post begins as such:

Is your biological clock about to run out? Not sure? A new app promises to tell you. It’s called “The Wonder Clock” and it uses your date of birth to calculate — down to the minute — when you’re going to become infertile, the Daily Mail reported.

There is the small problem that (1) your fertility is not tied to your birth date; in other words, there isn’t a set day that you will become unable to conceive based on the day you’re born and (2) your fertility is not like a kitchen faucet that is either running full stream or shut-off.  Fertility –without a catastrophic ending such as a hysterectomy — has a denouement.

So, you can be young and infertile, and you can be older and fertile.  The reality is that no one knows their fertility status until they attempt to procreate and find it impossible (not counting those who have a known fertility issue such as a lack of uterus, or situational infertility).  There are plenty of issues that indicate an increased possibility of infertility, but even factors such as PCOS or endometriosis do not point towards certain infertility.

The reason for the app?  Mira Kaddoura “created the app to confront her own fertility insecurities.”

I’m not sure what fertility insecurities are, though I am smitten by this phrase from her site: “We are women, and we are ticking.


Again, the reproductively healthy, average woman (I’m talking about everyone who doesn’t fit into the 12.5% since we’re all reproductively-diseased outliers) is someone moving from fertility to non-fertility.  I separate the word “non-fertility” from infertility, which I use to mean people who should by every definition be fertile and yet are not.  The grandmothers of Boca Raton are non-fertile; the nubile twenty-somethings at the clinic waiting for their morning blood draw are infertile.  It is normal for a fifty-year-old woman to not be able to conceive.  It is abnormal for a thirty-year-old woman to not be able to conceive.  And yes, while it’s technically a grey zone, it does point to a larger problem than just time when a forty-year-old woman is not able to conceive with assistance.

I know that the general public loves to point at people waiting to build their families as the reason for increased infertility, but that isn’t a very scientific approach to exploring a problem.  Occam’s razor points to delayed family building just as easily as it points to environmental factors (which also explains the rise in occurrence of other diseases) or genetic factors.  There are too many causes of infertility that have nothing to do with age.

So this mixing up of two ideas is perhaps the biggest problem with this app: infertility and non-fertility.

All women will become non-fertile with age.  Only some women will be infertile.  It’s sort of like how all khakis are chinos but not all chinos are khakis (or however that works out).

Kaddoura wants the app to be a tool for dialogue, but that’s where it fails as a conversation opener: infertility isn’t really about time, per se.  Non-fertility is, and that is what Kaddoura is probably concerned with, but for this to be a dialogue about infertility, we’d need to have talking points about clotting disorders and egg quality.  We’d have to talk about azoospermia and CBAVD.  We’d need to debate IVF protocols, have thoughtful discussions on donor gametes and surrogacy.  And if we talk about infertility and family building, we’d have to discuss adoption realities as well as women who live child-free after infertility.  To talk about infertility, we need to talk about pregnancy loss; we need to have a frank discussion about how babies sometimes die.

We NEED a dialogue about infertility in this country because there is a deep lack of understanding about the financial, emotional, and physical realities of infertility while there are simultaneously lawmakers continuously working to place limits of an area of health they barely understand.  And please don’t get me started on public perception.  A dialogue about infertility would take days.  Weeks.  Years.  It would be like falling into a black hole where time would seem to stop because of the enormous mass of what we have to say.

The conversation about non-fertility is actually fairly brief.  It goes like this: “Healthy fertility has a shelf life, and you should attempt to procreate sooner rather than later.  Sooner is based on a host of factors beyond time such as desire, financial stability, and emotional support.  But yeah, forget every message you’re getting from the media about how IVF is a panacea for all fertility issues, because it’s not.  And forget every message you’re getting from Hollywood about how easy it is to have a baby in your forties, because it’s not.  Um… so I think that just about covers it.”

People should be more conscious of the fact that fertility isn’t a given.  Time is important because all infertile women will also one day become non-fertile women; meaning, success rates drop with age because fertility drops with age.  But again, for this to be a useful conversation about infertility, we need to address the lack of insurance coverage which wastes time as couples wait to cycle for financial reasons.  If we’re concerned about time, let’s talk about the far-reaching and seldom-considered effects of time instead of placing an app on our phone which serves the same purpose as your Great-Aunt Jane telling you at Thanksgiving that you’re not getting any younger and you may want to squeeze out a grandchild and make your mother happy.

So, that’s what I think of this app.  Though hell yeahs to the conversation, Mainstream Media.  Infertility is a dialogue we should be having.  When you’re ready to listen, we’re ready to talk.

* Going to add that the Wonder Clock is $1.99 in the app store.  Thanks for capitalizing on people’s fears to turn a buck.


1 Mud Hut Mama { 07.10.12 at 9:31 am }

Wow – I hadn’t heard of this app but I agree with you and I really like the way you put things. Love the way you compare this app to Great-Aunt Jane – I think many women have their own Great-Aunt Jane so even those moving towards non-fertile probably have little use for an app that would be yet another reminder of it and yes – won’t be much help for those who are infertile.

2 Chickenpig { 07.10.12 at 9:52 am }

GAH! Yet another person talking about (creating an app for) infertility who does not take into account MALE FACTOR INFERTILITY! Hello, asshat lady, I am totally fucking fertile. My husband is not. And most likely he has been infertile since he was about 13 or so. Take your app and shove it.

3 Anna { 07.10.12 at 9:52 am }

Thank you Mel, you’ve hit several nails on the head. The non-fertile and the infertile distinction is something that could clear up so many problems with public discussions. It’s also something that could shortcut my prolonged version of the explanation when addressing this conflation whilst teaching. I must remember this for next academic year. Thanks!

4 Denver Laura { 07.10.12 at 10:07 am }

Reminds me of a movie, Timer. You’re given an implant and when the timer goes off, you’re to meet your soul mate. Doesn’t matter if you’re 13 or 43. Made for some pretty anxious situations.

So would my wonder clock have a negative number? Cuz seeing as how I started TTC when I was 31… Or is it just another tool to count to your 40th birthday (as if I need another reminder).

Imagine what else could go into a Wonder Clock. Wonder how long that shotgun wedding between those two teenagers will last? Wonder how long that skinny B* from high school will remain skinny? Wonder how long you can go between oil changes before your engine blows up? Sorry for being snarky, but I see this app being totally worthless.

5 Heather { 07.10.12 at 10:07 am }

UGH. I saw a story about this on our local news the other day and the reporter happily chattered away about it as if a) it were gospel and b) all you need to do is load this app and bam, you’ll know how long you can wait to try to get pregnant. No mention that your birthdate isn’t necessarily a relevant factor in fertility and no positive dialog with a reproductive endocrinologist. The media has a LONG way to go…

6 a { 07.10.12 at 10:49 am }

I do see one upside to this though – it might be a path to better insurance coverage. Get those career-minded 20-somethings thinking about preserving their eggs for the future, and they might join the campaign to make the whole shebang covered from puberty on.

7 KeAnne { 07.10.12 at 10:58 am }

Great analysis! Since I was born with a uterine anomaly, I guess my countdown never started?

8 Sharon { 07.10.12 at 11:13 am }

If there were truly a way to predict when one would become infertile–as previous posters have noted, assuming that you are discussing female, age-related infertility vs. male factor or some not-time-limited issue–that would be a HUGE gift to women everywhere. I know that I, at least, might’ve made some different choices in my life had I known that I was fertile at, say, 34 and would no longer be at 37 (when I started TTC).

But this app? Not so much.

9 k { 07.10.12 at 11:28 am }

Please, please, please send this post to the creator of the app.

10 Jay { 07.10.12 at 11:38 am }

UHH, as a scientist, that just makes me want to screech. How stupid can people be? The length of your fertility is hugely tied to your individual genetics, fertility is determined by many, many, many genes and humans are a crazily outbred population. There are women who stay fertile to their late 40s, and then there are people whose are close to finishing their good eggs by 35. You may be able to tell something by looking at your own family history, but even that is not a sure shot thing, by any means.

I remember something about a test that measured AMH, that was touted to tell you how close you are to menopause. Even that does not give a necessarily accurate picture, given the recent findings that AMH production is governed by vitamin D, which varies hugely in the population, and by time of the year.

11 MeAndBaby { 07.10.12 at 11:56 am }

As I was reading your insert of the beginning of their post, I couldn’t help but imagine a Saturday Night Live skit being acted out. I mean, seriously?

12 Alexicographer { 07.10.12 at 2:05 pm }

Huh? $1.99 for that?

Wait, if I buy it and then can’t get knocked up, can I sue? Does it come with a live baby guarantee* or just a double-lines guarantee? Or what?

*Did you know that in the horse world, at least in the US, stud fees typically come with a live-foal guarantee? In practice, what that means is that the mare must bear a foal who manages to stand and nurse or the mare owner gets another breeding for free. The typical stud fee, in case you are wondering, is a lot less than an IVF cycle. Unless you’re hoping to breed a Derby winner, in that case it’s a good bit more.

13 HereWeGoAJen { 07.10.12 at 2:55 pm }

Well, crap, if I had only had that app, I would have gotten pregnant at 25, when I first started trying. Think of all the time that $1.99 would have saved me!

14 EC { 07.10.12 at 3:07 pm }

That app is so dumb in so many ways!

15 loribeth { 07.10.12 at 3:23 pm }

Wow, $1.99 vs $10,000 for IVF — imagine that! :p

“When you’re ready to listen, we’re ready to talk.” Amen to that!!

16 Lori Lavender Luz { 07.10.12 at 3:49 pm }

That app is such a great idea I’m gonna buy two. One for each ovary.

17 Meghan { 07.10.12 at 3:59 pm }

I’m sure when I started trying at 28 that app would have given me a green light. 28 and no mama or health issues that I knew of. I’d love to read the legal disclaimers on the thing; they should be a huge red flag to people that this is completely unscientific and is nonsense

18 Guera { 07.10.12 at 8:51 pm }

I wish I had read this before spending the $1,99 🙂

19 Keiko { 07.11.12 at 6:25 pm }

I’m so glad you wrote about this. When I read about this a couple of days ago, I literally had no energy to post about it. I just threw up my hands and shook my head. Well said, Mel. Sharing this on FB tomorrow morning.

20 Khalana { 01.07.15 at 4:31 am }

I’m a yoga teacher whose experienced miscarriages endometriosis one stillborn one IVF ectopic pregnancy am in my 40’s and finally very healthily pregnant sans the assistance of a medical professional or her app which timed me out as biological clock ticking dead. Thank you so much for your thoughtful article. I’d like to remind Miss Wonder Clock how many young women suffer depression and don’t need the assistance of a $1.99 app to push them to a darker place, she is reminded to be mindful. Namaste’

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
The contents of this website are protected by applicable copyright laws. All rights are reserved by the author