Don’t want to fall pregnant? There’s an app for that
It tells you when to avoid sex, but is it as reliable as the developers say?
A smart new app advises users on their phones when to avoid sex. Although it has been cleared as a form of birth control in the US, SA health authorities warn couples to stick to condoms, birth control pills and other recognised contraceptives.
Health department spokesman Popo Maja said the department was unaware of Natural Cycles, which was last week cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration to be marketed as birth control.
“The department of health is not aware of this kind of birth control or contraceptive and we haven’t seen it in the market yet. Thus we wouldn’t encourage people to use any form of contraceptive that we don’t have sufficient information about, including its side effects,” Maja said.Swedish physicistse Elina Berglund and Raoul Scherwitzl have labelled their app a “digital contraceptive”. It claims to inform users to avoid sex or use protection based on a woman’s daily temperature measurements and the regularity of her period.
According to the app’s how-it-works section, Natural Cycles will help users determine the six fertile days in each menstrual cycle.
“All you need to do is measure your temperature in the morning, enter it into the app and it will give you a red or a green day depending on whether you need to use protection,” reads the manual.
Available worldwide via app stores, Natural Cycles is aimed at users over 18 and clearly states that it does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases.
While Americans are ready to embrace it, the app has courted controversy in Britain where it is being investigated for a Facebook advertisement in which it describes its results as “highly accurate”.The British Advertising Standards Agency’s investigation comes after the Swedish Medicines Agency announced in January that 37 women had complained to doctors that they were using the app when they fell pregnant.
The developers’ response is that according to its research, when used correctly 1.8 in 100 women will become pregnant because they had unprotected sex on a day the app advised that they were not fertile, or because their contraceptive failed when they had sex on a fertile day.
But when the app is used incorrectly, when users engage in unprotected sex on a fertile day, the failure rate is 6.5%.