Natural Cycles presents itself as an alternative method to the contraceptive pill, more reliable and less restrictive. But now it’s under fire; dozens of Swedish women have become pregnant after putting their trust in its method.
Today, there is an app for almost everything. Natural Cycles, a smartphone, for example, offers its users contraception as effective as pills, but without the inconvenience. In Sweden, however, dozens of women have become pregnant by trusting it. The Swedish Medicines Agency has opened an investigation last week to find out what really happened, according to the Swedish national channel SVT. Doctors at Södersjukhuset Hospital in Stockholm sounded the alarm after several patients who used Natural Cycles as a contraceptive demanded an abortion.
“This is a new method with which we have observed a number of unwanted pregnancies (…) We have decided to report these cases to the Medical Products Agency [Editor’s note: the Swedish equivalent of the US Food and Drug Administration FDA] “, warns Carina Montin, midwife interviewed by the local newspaper Siren and whose words are reported by SVT. Of the 668 abortion applications received between September 2017 and the end of the year, facility teams identified “at least 37 cases” of women who used the mobile app as a contraceptive.
Natural Cycles, which offers a first month free trial then a subscription of 8.99 € (11 dollars) per month, or 64.99 € (80 dollars) per year with the thermometer supplied, was created in 2014 by the nuclear physicist Elina Berglund and her husband Raoul Scherwizl. Since January 2017 it has been certified by the European Union.
The principle? Users measure their body temperature each morning and put the result into the app’s interface. Thanks to an allegedly complex algorithm and analysis of the menstrual cycle, the application then delivers to its user a color: red for a high risk of pregnancy or green for safe sex.
On its website, the Natural Cycles team explains that the method is based on “clinical research” and that it is “comparable” to pill contraception. “In one year, five out of every thousand women become pregnant because of a badly assigned green day,” the team says. Furthermore, according to a spokesperson for Natural Cycles, the method used would show an “effective success rate of 93%” if used correctly.
To support its claim, the company cites a study published in 2016 in the scientific journal The European Journal of Contraception & Reproductive Health Care which, on closer inspection, seems to have been funded at least in part by the developer of the application. The midwife Carina Montin advises women who are using the app to abandon it the Natural Cycles without delay in favor of “other safer contraception”.