From the foods we eat to the products we buy, many families are increasingly trending towards a more natural, toxin-free lifestyle. While the pill and its variants have been a staple form of birth control in the United States for decades, the new trend towards going natural is leading some to seek out other methods. Natural Cycles is the first FDA-cleared birth control app that promises to be as effective as the pill.

Natural Cycles is an app that relies on a fertility awareness method to prevent pregnancy. According to the company’s website, there is typically only a six-day window each month when women are able to get pregnant. By taking your basal body temperature each morning and entering the results into the app, you’ll be given a green light or a red light on whether you can be sexually active that day and still avoid pregnancy.

Anyone who has had difficulty getting pregnant has likely utilized the same method for the reverse purpose in order to pick the optimal days to get pregnant. So it stands to reason that the opposite could work as well. Natural Cycles claims that using the app perfectly will result in 99 percent efficacy and for typical use, 93 percent.

At 93 percent effective Natural Cycles is on par or technically more effective than the pill, which is 91 percent effective with typical use, and condoms, which are 82 percent effective, with typical use, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC has yet to include its recorded rates on the Natural Cycles app specifically. It does, however, rank Fertility-Awareness Based Methods at 76 percent effective. Meanwhile, the FDA has stated that clinical studies to evaluate the effectiveness of Natural Cycles for use in contraception, which involved 15,570 women who used the app for an average of eight months, confirm that the app has a 93.5 percent efficacy rate.

“Consumers are increasingly using digital health technologies to inform their everyday health decisions, and this new app can provide an effective method of contraception if it’s used carefully and correctly,” Terri Cornelison, M.D., Ph.D., assistant director for the health of women at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health said in a statement. “But women should know that no form of contraception works perfectly, so an unplanned pregnancy could still result from correct usage of this device.”

Last year, the app was certified as a contraceptive in the European Union and last week the FDA certified it here in the United States. While it sounds like a win for those looking for a more natural birth control method, there are some who have concerns—namely the 37 women who became pregnant in 2017 despite using the app, as Cosmopolitan reports. However, being 93 percent effective with typical use could account for those pregnancies.

“We care deeply each and every time one of our users becomes pregnant while using Natural Cycles and we understand the great difficulties faced by women who find themselves pregnant unintentionally. One of the ongoing challenges with all forms of contraception is that there is always a statistical chance of unintended pregnancy, since no method is 100% effective. The number of pregnancies reported with Natural Cycles has consistently remained within the expected threshold based on our published typical use effectiveness rate of 93%. Of course this does not take away from the difficulties faced by women who become pregnant unintentionally, and it is our mission to provide our users with the very best care; we take our responsibility in educating women about how to use Natural Cycles very seriously and offer ongoing support to our users,” a spokesperson from Natural Cycles responded when Red Tricycle reached out for comment.

At the end of the day, nothing is 100 percent effective and it’s up to every woman to do her own research, consult with her doctor and decide what is best for her.

—Shahrzad Warkentin

Featured photo: Natural Cycles



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