At first, the idea of using a mobile app instead of the pill might sound a little odd. How one uses a phone to prevent unwanted pregnancy could lead the imagination in all kinds of directions.
But one app has indeed just been officially approved as a method of contraception – and previous studies have shown it to be nearly as effective as the hormone-laden alternatives.
As stylist.co.uk reported in April last year, Natural Cycles is similar to standard fertility and period-tracking apps in that it allows the user to record their menstrual cycle and thus work out when they’re most fertile to plan or prevent pregnancy.
However the app also monitors body temperature, which works as an indirect measure of hormone levels. And the algorithm has proved so effective that Natural Cycles is now the world’s first app to gain official approval as a method of contraception.
Certification body Tüv Süd approved the app as a class IIb medical device, allowing it to be marketed as a contraceptive option – meaning those unhappy with the often life-impacting side effects of the pill, injection, implant or coil now have another hormone-free alternative.
Users are required to take their temperature every morning and input their score – a method also particularly useful for women whose irregular cycles make fertile windows more difficult to predict. A study of 4,000 women found that the app to be nearly as effective as the pill in preventing pregnancy. While the rate of accidental pregnancy while using the pill is three in every 1,000 women, the rate with the app is five in every 1,000.
Natural Cycles was created by husband and wife team Dr Raoul Scherwitzl and Dr Elina Berglund. Berglund, one of the scientists who discovered the Higgs boson no less, says the app gives women choice: “Women around the world are interested in exploring effective non-hormonal, non-invasive forms of contraception, and now they have a new, clinically verified and regulatory approved option to choose from.
“Our high quality clinical studies, together with the required regulatory approvals, means we can provide women everywhere with a new option for contraception. Natural Cycles allow women to better understand their bodies so they can make choices that are right for them.”
According to a press release, the app, which is free to download but requires a monthly fee, is already used by more than 150,000 women in 161 countries.
Images: Natural Cycles