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Rhythm method returns with Natural Cycles app

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Emily J. Sullivan
Staff Writer

Natural Cycles was approved last month by the FDA as a medical device for use as a contraceptive.

To be more specific, since the term “medical device” may be misleading, the Natural Cycles birth control is a phone app and a thermometer, that are used together to track ovulation.

There truly is no one size fits all birth control method and the best option for one woman may not be optimal for another.

“It is a form of birth control and I would say it is somewhat reliable, but not the most reliable.”
University of La Verne Health Center Physician Dr. Stefan Reynoso said. “I would recommend it under the circumstance that a woman were trying to avoid hormones, intrauterine devices, or if they are not as concerned if they happen to get pregnant. It’s probably fairly effective, low probability of pregnancy, but it could happen.”

The app credits a smart algorithm that, according to Natural Cycles’ website, can accurately determine a woman’s fertility each day. The company advertises the form of birth control as an effective method with an asterisk next to the word effective, then clarifies just below that it is only 93 percent effective and that for every 100 women who use the method, seven can become pregnant within one year of use.

“I kind of laughed when I read about it because it’s just like the rhythm method which has been around forever,” said Paula Chase, Kaiser Permanente registered nurse.

“Obviously the pill is going to be more accurate so if you’re really not wanting to get pregnant, and you don’t want to use the hormone option (pill), there’s always abstinence . . . but that doesn’t seem to be so popular.”

Natural Cycles works by identifying fertile and non-fertile days in a woman’s cycle.

To use it, you take your temperature with the basal thermometer each morning, enter the information into the app and get a green light for non-fertile days and a red-light for fertile.

On red days, women should use other forms of birth control or abstain from sex.

The app, created by married couple Elina Berglund and Raoul Scherwitzl in Stockholm, Sweden, goes for $79.99 annually or $9.99 monthly if you provide your own basal thermometer.

“I happen to know from first hand experience that your body ovulates when it wants to,” said Rebecca Lucas, a Los Angeles social influencer and mother of two. “Also, sperm lives much longer than most people think. I got pregnant with my daughter a week before I was expected to be ovulating.”

While a natural option like Natural Cycles may appeal to women who cannot take hormonal birth control pills for medical reasons, have latex allergies, or have rejected an IUD, it may not be the best option for someone who is seriously trying to protect themselves from unplanned pregnancy.

In addition, it does not protect from sexually transmitted diseases.

“There’s no way this would work for me,” said Lara Bauer, junior history major. “I can hardly remember to take a pill every day, let alone use a thermometer before I leave and enter the information into my phone. I wouldn’t be able to trust it.”

Facebook banned Natural Cycle’s advertisement this year for advertising as “highly accurate.”

The UK’s Advertising Standards Agency ruled that the app’s advert was misleading and exaggerated the app’s effectiveness.

The company was also reported to Sweden’s Medical Products Agency by a Swedish hospital after it reported 37 unwanted pregnancies resulting in women who had been using the app as their contraception.

“I think the method is meant for women who are married and want to avoid having children close together, but are okay having children if they happen to get pregnant. It’s a natural way of planning a family,” Dr. Reynoso said.

Emily J. Sullivan can be reached at emily.sullivan@laverne.edu.

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