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05 Apr 2017

Contraception: now in app form

It’s a breakthrough in birth control. But would you trust a mobile app?

girl on phone

If you’re having sex, but don’t fancy getting pregnant, there are lots of different contraceptive methods to choose from.

Millions of women use contraceptives such as the pill, the injection or the implant. Trouble is, all these methods release artificial hormones into the body, which studies have found have some nasty side effects, including weight gain and depression. Some women, understandably, opt out of hormones and choose to  get an IUD inserted, which involves a relatively unpleasant and normally quite painful procedure, and results in heavier periods. Don’t fancy it? There’s always condoms, but, annoyingly, they can ‘ruin the moment’ and limit sexual pleasure.

With no sign of the much talked about ‘male contraceptive’, women can breathe a sigh of relief with the new technology breakthrough that offers contraception in the form on a mobile app. Natural Cycles is a fertility app, developed by Swedish physicist Elina Berglund, which has been approved to use as a contraceptive in the European Union.

Here’s how it works…

Similar to natural family planning, which involves identifying days when women are fertile, the app uses a complex algorithm to analyse fluctuations in a woman’s temperature. Users must take their temperature first thing every morning and input it into the app. The algorithm can then learn a person’s unique temperature fluctuation to work out when ovulation is happening, and therefore when it’s safe, or not, to have sex. When a ‘green day’ shows, it’s safe to have sex. When it’s a ‘red day’ users can either abstain from sex or use condoms.

Natural Cycles is already trusted by 150,000 people around the world, but this is the first time that such technology has been officially approved as an effective contraceptive method. It could spell the end of hormonal birth control, freeing women of the side effects and dangers of long term use. But would you trust this fertility awareness app to stop you getting pregnant?

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons...


Pros and cons of a fertility tracking app

Pros

  • The main advantage is that this type of contraceptive is completely natural. Instead of altering your body and preventing eggs from being released, women can actually learn about their bodies and change their actions in order to avoid pregnancy

  • Non-invasive and non-hormonal method

  • Has medical approval

  • No side effects or health risks

Cons

  • It has a higher rate of pregnancies compared to other contraceptive methods, as it relies profoundly on users following the instructions

  • Doesn’t protect against STIs, unless condoms are used as well

  • Some women rely on the effects of hormonal contraceptives, such as regular and less painful periods

The Natural Cycles app has the potential to revolutionise birth control, liberating women from pumping themselves full of hormones. Would you give the app a go? Talk to a GP about the most suitable type of contraceptive for you.

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