Could an app really replace condoms and the pill?

Could an app really replace condoms and the pill?

CultureOctober 02, 2017

For the first time ever, a cell phone app has been certified in the European Union as a form of birth control. The US could be next.

The revolutionary app is called Natural Cycles. Its creator, Elina Berglund, is a Swedish physicist who won the Nobel Prize in Physics for helping discover the subatomic particle known as the Higgs Boson. After solving one scientific mystery, she shifted focus to another — creating an app that prevents pregnancy. Her app is now the first in the world to be approved as a contraceptive.

Plenty of cycle-tracking apps came before Natural Cycles. But most of them fail at their fundamental job of finding the right fertility window. Natural Cycles uses a specially-developed algorithm and a woman’s body temperature to determine which days she’s most fertile.

This way, couples can know which days they can have sex without using protection and without risking pregnancy. On days with a high risk of pregnancy, a red light indicates: either don’t bone, or be sure to use protection. On days with a low risk, a green light signifies: you can bump uglies unprotected all day.

Natural Cycles claims to be just as effective as the pill at preventing pregnancy. In fact, by some measures, the app is actually more effective than the pill.

Used perfectly, the pill has an effectiveness rate of 99.7 percent. However, hardly any lady uses the pill perfectly. Factoring in actual use,  the effectiveness rate of the pill drops to 92 percent.

According  to a study published in the journal Contraception, Natural Cycles has an actual use effectiveness rate of 93 percent. With these findings and the EU certification in hand, the app began marketing as an alternative to condoms and birth control pills.

In the future, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Natural Cycles could be approved by the FDA. Unfortunately, the process is long, arduous and expensive. Until the FDA gives them the green light, Natural Cycles won’t encourage Americans to throw away their condoms and birth control pills.

Reducing reliance on condoms is an exciting idea. Replacing medication with technology  is an even more exciting one. Natural Cycles currently has more than 300,000 users in 161 countries. It costs about $10 per month, or offers a discounted annual rate of $52 per year, including the thermometer.

The goal isn't to replace other forms of birth control, Berglund says.  It's about giving more women more choice when it comes to contraception. Compared to rubbers, pills, or the pull-and-pray method, an app is an attractive alternative.