A mobile fertility app has been granted medical approval to be used as female contraception within the European Union.
The Natural Cycles app, which costs £60 a year, calculates which days the user is and isn’t fertile, based on daily body temperature measurements that must be entered into the app.
Using this information, Natural Cycles indicates ‘red’ and ‘green’ days throughout the month. Women can use this fertility information as either a contraceptive or for planning a pregnancy; if being used as a contraceptive, users can have sex on green days only.
Designed by Nobel Prize winning physicist Elina Bergund and her husband Dr Raoul Scherwitzl, the app was tested in over 4,000 Swedish women aged 20-35 and surprisingly found that it was just as effective as the contraceptive pill.
Despite being used by over 3 million women within the UK, the pill has consistently been linked to depression, severe mood swings, weight gain and a multitude of other negative side effects – many of which are caused by hormones present in the pill.
In contrast, Natural Cycles is hormone-free, providing a more natural alternative with less negative side effects. The scientific premise behind the app is fairly simple — after ovulation, the hormone progesterone is naturally released in our bodies, and warms our bodies up by around 0.45 C. Therefore, by tracking a woman’s daily body temperatures, Natural Cycles is able to predict when she is ovulating.
But can it be trusted to prevent pregnancy? Chair of the British Fertility Society, Dr Adam Balen, suggests that women should be wary of expecting complete protection from the app, saying “any device that monitors the menstrual cycle is fallible as women do not always ovulate predictably every month.”
22-year-old University of Manchester student, Hollie, agrees and said: “I would not trust it. There is no way I could have peace of mind leaving my fertility down to an app. The pill gives me much more peace of mind and I know I can relax.”
Fellow student Mel agrees, saying that “if I knew it was just as accurate as the pill, then I would definitely prefer using the app. It would feel so much more natural.”
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