It seems there are smartphone apps for just about everything, from travel, to weight loss and now – contraception.
The European Union recently certified a new smartphone app “Natural Cycles” as a bonafide method of birth control.
The Natural Cycles app determines a woman’s fertility through her daily temperature and menstruation cycle. When the woman’s risk of pregnancy is high, a red light on the app will indicate that she should avoid intercourse or use a form of protection. A green light means the risk of pregnancy is low.
The app’s developer, particle physicist Elina Berglund, says the goal of the app is not to replace other forms of birth control, but instead to provide a more accurate, mathematical update to an ancient option.
In a clinical study of 4,000 women who used the Natural Cycles app in addition to a basal body thermometer, it had a 93 percent effectiveness rate. In fact, only seven out of 100 women got pregnant, compared to about 24 out of 100 using the rhythm or calendar fertility tracking methods.
Dr. Jennifer Balash, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill., says contraception apps can be very helpful for women who choose not to use an alternative birth control method.
“If a patient was unable or chose not to use another form of contraception, I would absolutely recommend the app. Understanding their cycle and fertility empowers women to control if and when they conceive,” she says. “I often recommend apps to women who are trying to conceive. Should they run into difficulties conceiving, it is helpful for me to be able to look over their past cycles when evaluating the possible causes of infertility.”
Dr. Balash reminds women that no form of birth control is 100 percent effective.
“Women should choose the contraceptive method that they will be the most compliant with in order to decrease the likelihood of contraceptive failure. While the Natural Cycles study found that the app is more effective than birth control pills, it is not as effective as implants, which have a failure rate of less than one percent. And it’s important to remember that this will not prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases,” says Dr. Balash.