Need birth control? There’s an app for that! New phone technology now promises protection against unwanted pregnancy.
A Swedish husband-and-wife team of nuclear physicists developed an app to track menstrual cycles as an alternative to current birth control options like oral contraceptives, condoms and intrauterine devices, also known as IUDs.
The app, called Natural Cycles, has been clinically tested and, when used correctly, has proven to be as effective as the birth control pill. While there are many apps and online calculators to assist women in tracking their cycle to try to conceive, Natural Cycles is the first birth control app in the world to be approved for contraception.
The app, not yet approved in the United States, hit the European market and has gained in popularity in countries like Sweden and the United Kingdom, and has over 150,000 users in 161 countries. Natural Cycles has been certified for several European healthcare organizations, including the UK’s National Health Service.
A New Version of Natural Family Planning
For centuries, couples have used natural family planning method to prevent unwanted pregnancy.
Many women use natural family planning because of moral or religious reason, or because of adverse reactions or side effects, like weight gain or mood swings, caused by hormonal birth control.
Other women prefer natural family planning because when they want to conceive, there is typically no delay compared to some birth control methods that may impede conception for six months to a year.
During natural family planning, women record their basal body temperature to determine if they are ovulating. Higher temperatures indicate days of ovulation, and lower temperatures indicate non-fertile days.
To effectively use the Natural Cycles app, users must take their temperature orally first thing each morning and record the information into the app on their phone or tablet. Using a proprietary algorithm, the app then calculates if the user is fertile that day or not. Users then know their risk of getting pregnant if they have unprotected sex. Fertile days yield a red-light result, and "safe" days show a green light. Green light days indicate that users can have unprotected sex with a 99 percent certainty of not becoming pregnant.
Technology Makes Tracking Ovulation Easier
"Tracking temperature is an effective way to determine ovulation, but it can be confusing," said Dr. Mona Alqulali, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.C.O.G.
Alqulali is an OBGYN who practices in Clinton and Bettendorf, Iowa, and counsels her patients on their contraceptive and family planning options.
"Many patients choose natural family planning as a means of contraception, and a new app may help some patients track their cycle more readily," Alqulali said.
For some, regular pen and paper charting of ovulation can be confusing and inconsistent, which may lead to an unwanted pregnancy. Natural Cycles claims that the confusion and inconsistency can be removed from the equation, because the app does all the work.
A study sponsored by Natural Cycles that followed 4,000 women showed that seven in 100 women became pregnant on the app. This study considered expected human error, including forgetting to take temperature on some days.
Natural Cycles is not the only online application used to track fertility and ovulation to prevent pregnancy. Other companies have developed similar programs in hopes of reaching populations in areas underserved by health care providers or those individuals who do not have access to birth control.
Currently, no contraception app has been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration, but the makers of Natural Cycles anticipate future approval and hope to introduce the app in the U.S. market soon.
Business Insider Nordic. Swedish nuclear physicist just got the world’s first approved birth control app - as effective as the pill but using only mathematics. Business Insider Nordic. 10 February 2017.