FDA-approved birth control app hits the market

Teens express interest in digital birth control

ORLANDO, Fla. – Women seeking non-hormonal methods of birth control now have a new option: an app.

It’s the first app backed by clinical research and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to prevent pregnancy.

The Natural Cycles app can be downloaded on a smartphone for $79.99 annually and is paired with a digital-basal thermometer.

Using self-reported daily temperature readings, the app uses an algorithm to analyze and advise the user if she is fertile, or not fertile through “green” and “red" days. The app can account for missed temperature readings, but the user will be given more red days.

Dr. Juan Acuna, associate professor of OB-GYN at Florida International University College of Medicine, worked with the Natural Cycles developers, headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden. 

Acuna said temperature readings and tracking fertility without hormones is not new, but described the app’s effective algorithm as a “breakthrough” for women seeking natural methods of contraception.  

"The app does everything else for you, it tracks, it adds, and also adjusts on a daily basis so you don't have to recalculate everything on a monthly basis," Acuna said.

Natural Cycles presents users with several warnings, “Before you start.”

It requires users to be at least 18 years old.

Explains that no birth control is 100 percent effective. But states: “Natural Cycles is 93 percent effective under typical use, which means 7 women out of 100 get pregnant during 1 year of use.” 

Acuna said that research shows the app is in the same effectiveness category as the pill.

College students Mikiya Johnson, 19, and Jobrycea Warren, 18, said the app is something their friends would try.

"We get up every morning and, like, look at our phones, so I think it'd be pretty easy to do it,” Johnson said.

Both teens said finding a hormone-free option was desirable to prevent side-effects like mood swings and weight gain.

"You protect yourself first, you come first, which is why I think the app is a great idea,” Warren said.

Dr. Christine Greves, OB-GYN with Winnie Palmer Hospital in Orlando, said she would proceed with caution.

"I think this could work for someone who is motivated, someone who doesn't mind getting pregnant if it doesn't work,” Greves said.

When compared with the efficacy percentages of implants, IUD’s or birth control shots, Greves said Natural Cycles is not something she would recommend to her teenage patients yet.

"Do I think it could be a problem in providing a safe sense of security? Yes, I do. But I can understand a teenager's desire to have, to try to do things discreetly,” Greves said.

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