Many apps exist to track periods and perhaps even fertility. One one, however, in the US is allowed to advertise as an actual form of birth control.
Natural Cycles takes a woman’s lowest temperature her body can reach, which happens first thing in the morning to determine her fertility. Since the temperature of a woman’s body rises just after the release of an egg, each time she enters her basal body temperature into the app, it gains knowledge as to where she is in her cycle. The app comes with a free thermometer and a $79.99 annual subscription to the app to take the measurements. The algorithm of the app can even predict when the user is the most fertile. This tells them whether or not to use extra birth control if they’re not trying to conceive, or when the best time to have sex is if they are.
The app takes about two to four months to gather temperature data. During this time, women need to use backup forms of birth control. After that time, according to Juan Acuna, gynecologist and scientific advisor for Natual Cycles, the failure rates are like that of any other birth control method.
Other Birth Control Methods Compared to Natural Cycles and How to Use Newest Form of BC
August 10 marked the day the US FDA allowed Natural Cycles to call itself a method of contraception. The decision came after the agency looked over clinical studies of the app including almost 16,000 women who used it for eight months. Those who used the app correctly (took temperature correctly and took the app’s advice) became pregnant 1.8% of the time. The same study showed when used typically, the failure rate of Natural Cycle stayed around 6.5%. For comparison, the pill usually has a failure rate of about 9%, and condoms 18%. That being said, these other birth controls have more data covering more time that back up these numbers.
Earlier in the year, Natural Cycles took negative attention when a Sweedish hospital reported 37 of 668 women looking for abortions became pregnant while using the app as a form of birth control (an already approved form of birth control in Europe.) The creators weren’t deterred by the numbers and said the app had a typical-use problem just like many other forms of birth control.
Even so, that doesn’t mean the app is suitable for every woman looking to avoid pregnancy. This app is hard work to use when compared to other types of BC. The basal body temperature tracking assumes many things. One, you have a stable life allowing you to wake up about the same time every day. Two, you remember to do a temperature reading before going to pee, cuddling your partner or even sitting up. You also can’t travel, stay up late, sleep in, have hangovers, or even get stressed too often. All of this affects the temperature of your body for the day and when you ovulate that month.
The couple will need to either use a barrier method or abstain from sex during the fertility period. This is typically when the woman’s libido is at its highest. To top it all off, you need full agency over when and where you have sex.