I’d like to think over the past few years, I’ve proven myself to be quite the tech advocate. From apps that force you to scan the barcode on your toothpaste to snooze an alarm to the latest smartphones. I’ve tested them all and I’m usually pretty positive, but only where positivity is due. Which leaves me in a pickle when it comes to Natural Cycles. It ticks all the Goosed.ie boxes:
- It’s a new and clever way of doing something
- There’s an app
- There’s a gadget
- People seem to like it
But even with all those boxes ticked, I can’t say I’m comfortable with the idea of Natural Cycles. Here’s my admittedly male review of a female birth control app.
What is Natural Cycles?
Natural Cycles is an app designed to help women track their menstrual cycles and, more importantly, their fertility. The app is a premium service costing €64.99 per year which includes a free thermometer which can measure accurately to two decimal places. The onus is on women to take their temperature every morning, immediately after waking up. The app then works its magic, taking all the available data and running it through an algorithm; this is why it takes the app at least three cycles to start working.
Once the app understands your cycles, it will start to label your days as either:
Having sex without the use of a condom or other contraceptive method on a Red Day means you’re en-route to baby town. Green Days, according to the manufacturer, means you’re in the clear to have sex without another means of protection.
Is Natural Cycles Safe?
Natural Cycles isn’t the safest method of contraception. If you’re looking for the safest form of contraception, female implants top the list with a 99% effectiveness rating. Here’s how the whole field compares taking some of the more aggressive figures across the board, according to British NHS statistics:
Now, I do have a problem with the number beside Natural Cycles. The research was carried out by the app’s founders, two former CERN physicists. While they claim their work to be accurate, that’s a fairly sizeable conflict of interest. Also, the sample size of test participants is questionable, given it involved a very limited age group of people.
This isn’t just me getting my tinfoil hat out either, the app is currently under serious scrutiny.
How Effective is the Natural Cycles App?
While research indicates an effectiveness of 93%, Natural Cycles has come under major scrutiny in Sweden.
A major Stockholm hospital reported the app to the Medical Products Agency after 37 unwanted pregnancies were aborted from a total of 668 unwanted pregnancies.
You might be able to take the Natural Cycles reliability as gospel, but there are a lot of maybes, ifs and buts which open up users to risk of unwanted pregnancy. One reason I personally don’t like the idea of Natural Cycles is buried deep in the FAQs.
Can You Use Natural Cycles With Irregular Cycles?
If you have irregular cycles, you absolutely should not depend on Natural Cycles as a form of birth control. To be fair, the Natural Cycles website does call this out in their frequently asked questions, but it does make me feel like it’s a little buried. Here’s what they have to say:
What About Irregular Cycles?
It’s quite common to have irregularities, especially if you have recently stopped using hormonal contraception. The Natural Cycles algorithm takes factors such as cycle regularity and temperature fluctuations into account when analysing your unique cycle and calculating predictions. It will still be effective, but you might experience more red days. That’s why it may not be suited as a contraceptive for women with very irregular cycles. However, by tracking your cycle you will have a complete overview of how your unique cycle works and may even find out what is causing these irregularities by taking note of symptoms or discussing it with your doctor.
Just look at how long it took for the Natural Cycles team to state it might not be suitable for women with irregular cycles! Now, the onus is on women and their partners to research a contraceptive method that meets their needs. It’s up to them to ensure they know the facts, but I personally believe Natural Cycles are not presenting all the facts with complete clarity.
Elsewhere in their FAQs, Natural Cycles outlines where they deliver their thermometers too. If you can’t get one, they casually drop in that you can pick up any two decimal certified thermometer to use with their service. For something as important as contraception, that just seems a little casual for my liking.
A quick stop over to Boards.ie show many users echo my concerns!
Should You Try Natural Cycles?
For a start, don’t take my word for it – I’m a guy without expert knowledge of female contraception and secondly, I’m not a medical professional either. That’s who should be advising you. Over in the US, the FDA has just approved Natural Cycles to commence marketing their product in the States. However, if you’ve seen Netflix’s Bleeding Edge, you may question just how much that actually means. Ironically, Bayer is not painted in a very good light throughout that documentary but they did speak some sense when I reached out to them for comment on this new contraceptive method:
There is a wealth of contraception options currently available. When an individual is making a decision about which contraception option will best suit their current needs it is important to consult a healthcare professional. Healthcare professionals are the most reliable source of information, as they are actively involved in contraceptive counselling and can provide tailored support.