Tara Lepore | Contributing Writer | Friday, 10 February 2017

The Natural Cycles app

Scientists Have Approved A Contraception Method You Can Get On The App Store

The Debrief: Would you trust an algorithm to stop you getting pregnant?

A way of not getting pregnant that won't mess with your hormones? There's now an app for that. 

The Natural Cycles app tells you how likely you are to get pregnant on any given day, and it's now been recognised as a trusted form of contraception (for only £4.99 a month). 

The app is the first to be officially approved by a credible German certification body - employed by the Department of Health - to be used as a contraceptive in the European Union, including the UK. This means that it could soon be prescribed by the NHS as a verified method of contraception alongside condoms and the pill. 

In order for the app to work accurately, you need to take your temperature each morning to test where you are in your cycle. No, there's no need to stick your iPhone in your mouth, but you do need to get your hands on a basal thermometer (which is more sensitive than a regular one, measuring to two decimal points). You can buy Natural Cycles' branded thermometer when you sign up, but any one will do. 

You then add your temperature reading to the app's homepage, and an algorithm will work out whether or not you could get pregnant on that day. A red day means you're not protected - and will need to use another form of contraception - and a green day means you're good to go. It'll take a few weeks for it to calculate your cycle totally accurately, so it's important to be extra careful in the first four of five weeks of using the app. The app-makers also warn that you shouldn't 100% rely on your result if you felt sick, hungover or didn't get enough sleep when you took your temperature. 

So, you still have to remember to do something every morning (and it's slightly more effort than popping a pill in your mouth), but for the growing number of women looking for an alternative to hormonal contraception, it might just be the ticket.

Co-founder Elina Berglund started up the app when she wanted to give her body a break from the pill, saying: 'I couldn't find any good forms of natural birth control, so I wrote an algorithm for myself'. A study in 2015 analysed the results of more than 4,000 women aged 20-35 who were using the app, resulting in 143 unplanned pregnancies in a year. However, only 10 of these pregnancies were conceived on 'green' days, leading the app to be deemed reliable by the German certification body Tuv Sud. 

So, it's a fairly accurate method to know when you really shouldn't be taking risks with condoms. Medical data analysts Bazian say it is 'an app that helps keep track of when it would be better to abstain from unprotected sex', and you've got to remember to log your temperature reading every morning for the best chance of it working properly. 

But it's not something that would give everyone peace of mind. 

Although some people are already sold. 

Including the 100,000 women across the world who are already using it. 

So if you're after a natural alternative to hormonal contraception, this could be an option for you. But if you're 100% sure you definitely don't want to get pregnant right now, you might want to consider other non-hormonal methods that don't rely on algorithms. 

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