Some apps can recognize songs, help drivers find parking spots, and today, they can also be used as a means of contraception. On February 9, physicist couple Elina Berglund and Raoul Scherwizl’s “Natural Cycle” app was medically approved for use as a contraceptive.
Ever since the 60’s, women have been using the contraceptive pill, commonly referred to as the pill, in order to minimize the chances of pregnancy.
Today, up to 17 percent of all fertile women in developed countries use the pill. Despite the reliability and practicality of contraceptive pills such as Mircette, their secondary effects can include increased risks of heart and blood complications.
These disadvantages lead customers to call for a more efficient alternative, and this application is one of them. It was initially launched in 2014 in Sweden as a simple fertility tracker.
“We’ve always wanted to be a contraceptive product,” said Scherwitzl, the CEO, in an interview with VentureBeat. The app currently includes over 150,000 users in 160 countries, its easy use attracting more and more women.
So how does it work? Users take their temperature with a standard thermometer every morning and log the readings into the app. As information is fed into the program, the app begins to recognize the fertility cycle of the user and determines the peak fertility of the woman.
Based on the temperature, and as the hormone progesterone heats up a woman’s body by up to 0.45°C post-ovulation, the calendar of the app proceeds to label days in red or green: red for high fertility where one should abstain or use a condom, and the rest green, considered safe.
The developers of the app claim the calendar will not assign a color for a day unless it is 99.95% certain. If in doubt it will go for red. At first, the app begins to show many red days, approximately equal to the green days. However, as it gathers more information it simulates the ovulation cycle more accurately, and green becomes more frequent.
Natural Cycles is likely to see major success in the future as doctors can recommend it as a legal contraceptive alternative. The certification by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) this month is also a large step for the app industry, as Natural Cycles is not the first of its kind.
Other fertility tracker apps are also present on the market, mainly Daysy and Persona. However, they do not promise a high success rate. Some restrict their use to females with a specific type of ovulation, or do not allow users with certain diseases.
Natural Cycle, on the other hand, is available to everyone, even women going through menopause, and its track record is quite encouraging. Natural Cycles’ own analysis shows that with perfect use, just 0.5 out of 100 people will get pregnant in a year using the app as contraception. The app currently only costs £60 a year, with its counterparts being near the 300 mark, and none of them passed clinical tests by the EU.
In a few years, the app will likely grow into a huge market, as its track record will speak for itself. It may take a while for women to invest into the future of contraceptives through apps, as it almost seems too good to be real.