Birth control app Natural cycles just got FDA approval

But how reliable is it?

Words by Rebecca Fearn

The FDA (Food and Drugs Administration) in America has approved natural birth control app Natural Cycles.

In a surprising move, the notoriously strict FDA has given marketing approval to the app, which is currently under investigation in Sweden after several claims of unwanted pregnancies were reported by users. This approval means the app is allowed to market itself as a contraceptive.

Terri Cornelison, assistant director for the health of women in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in a statement: “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”.

“But women should know that no form of contraception works perfectly, so an unplanned pregnancy could still result from correct usage of this device.”

The app, which has over 900,000 users and bills itself as ‘digital birth control’ takes your temperature daily with its accompanying thermometer and uses an algorithm to predict which days you’re most likely to be fertile based on body temperature and menstrual cycle information. The Swedish brand claims the app is typically 93% effective when used as birth control, but 99% effective if used following exact directions.

However, these types of apps have come under scrutiny recently. The app has been under investigation in the U.K. by the Advertising Standards Authority after receiving complaints about its paid advertising on Facebook, while in Sweden, 37 cases of unwanted pregnancies from users of the app were reported.

Would you trust a digital app as contraception?

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