A contraceptive app sounds like a dream come true — no more nasty side effects from the pill and no more painful intrauterine device procedures. It all sounds great until you realize the app is basically promoting to practice celibacy or to use protection when your most fertile. The app tracks your temperature to see if you’re on a "green" or a "red" day, which tells you whether or not you need to use protection that day.
We read this and thought, "Hmm, maybe not." However, a lot of women have put their faith in this app, which boasts a 99 percent success rate and claims to be more effective than the pill. Now, after tens of thousands of downloads, the real results are in: The app is causing unwanted pregnancies.
The Södersjukhuset hospital in Stockholm, Sweden, has filed a complaint with the Swedish Medical Products Agency, which is responsible for regulating medical devises. The complaint claims that hospital staff recorded 37 unwanted pregnancies in the last quarter of 2017 from patients who used the app.
Around 125,000 British women supposedly used the app in 2017, after a study into its effectiveness found it was 99 percent effective under "perfect" use and 93 percent effective under "typical" use. (This is three percent more effective than the pill.) "Perfect use" would mean using the app correctly and consistently for one year, which is essentially taking your temperature first thing in the morning before getting out of bed every day.
Although it is approved by EU regulators, midwives at the Swedish hospital have said they "have duty to report all side effects, such as pregnancies." Natural Cycles has put out a statement in response: "If you have a popular form of contraception such as Natural Cycles, then you also have to expect a certain amount of unwanted pregnancies from users using this method. Our studies have repeatedly shown that our app provides a high level of effectiveness similar to methods that require a daily routine."
The company continued: "We have not been involved in the study that Södersjukhuset hospital is referring to, so we cannot comment on specifics. However, we understand that it sounds alarming, but when Natural Cycles’ user base increases, naturally so will the amount of unwanted pregnancies coming from users using us, just as it would do with any kind of new contraception."
Natural Cycles added: "We agree with what midwife Carina Montin says, [that] 'Perhaps young people should use another form of contraception.'"
We’re also inclined to agree that this app might be more suited to understanding your own cycle and fertility than necessarily using it as a contraceptive. Although hormonal contraceptives aren’t perfect, they’re tried and tested methods in preventing unwanted pregnancy. We can only hope there’s more research into both hormonal and non-hormonal contraceptives, for both women and men, to protect against pregnancy. Natural Cycles goal "to increase contractive choice, so that all women find a suitable method of contraception," is one we should strive toward, but maybe not with their app — at least for now.
This post was written by Ellie Wiseman. For more, check out our sister site Grazia.