Would you trust your iPhone as a contraceptive tool? This is a question that has been attracting a lot of media attention as of late thanks to Natural Cycles, the only EU approved birth control app and the brainchild of Swedish ex-CERN scientist, Dr. Elina Berglund.
Marketed as an alternative and more holistic approach to contraception than the pill, the app, which costs £40 to download and comes with a small thermometer, requires a woman to track and record her body temperature on a daily basis. During the course of a woman’s menstrual cycle, her temperature will increase while she is ovulating due to higher levels of progesterone. Implementing this data into an algorithm, Natural Cycles then tracks the user’s body temperature to accurately predict which stage she is at in her cycle and when protection should be used to prevent a pregnancy. Days when it’s ‘okay’ to have unprotected sex are marked as green on its calendar, but if it shows as red, couples are advised to use an extra form of protection.
A reported 125,000 British women used the app as a mode of contraception in 2017, where it was found to be 99% effective under ‘perfect use’ and 93% under ‘typical’ use. According to the app’s founders, the typical user is a 30-year-old woman in an established relationship with a stable partner.
However, Natural Cycles has received unprecedented attention in recent weeks due to its association with unwanted pregnancies. The Södersjukhuset hospital in Stockholm has registered a complaint with the Swedish Medical Products Agency, stating that hospital staff had recorded a number of 37 unwanted pregnancies after using the app in the latter half of 2017, stemming from a study of over 600 women who sought abortions at the hospital from September 2017 until the end of the year.
In a statement, Natural Cycles said: “No contraception is 100 per cent and unwanted pregnancies are an unfortunate risk with any contraception.
“To have 37 unwanted pregnancies out of the 668 mentioned in this study means that 5,5 percent of women who stated they used Natural Cycles also had an unwanted pregnancy. This is in line with what we communicate as the risk of unwanted pregnancy with typical use, and which is comparable to other types of contraception.”
Perhaps, then, what we can take away from the case of Natural Cycles is that women are keen to move away from traditional forms of hormonal contraception. However, despite our ever-advancing levels of technology, perhaps medicinal methods are the most effective way of preventing or planning a pregnancy.
image: Lobo Studio Hamburg via Pixabay