It’s big news. The FDA has approved the first birth control app to be marketed as a contraceptive. The approval of Natural Cycles is historic, a move that clears the way for similar mobile medical applications, but does the birth control app work? How does it work? To find out, Fox 26 News asked Dr. Mazen Abdallah, reproductive endocrinologist and Medical Director at Houston Fertility Institute.
How Does the Birth Control App Work?
The Natural Cycles app is designed to track fertility and, when used correctly, prevent pregnancy. According to the FDA, Natural Cycles uses an algorithm to calculate the days of the month that a woman is likely fertile based on her daily temperature readings and menstrual cycle.
“How the app works is it relies on the basal body temperature,” says Dr. Abdallah. The basal body temperature is your temperature at baseline, when you are resting without moving or generating any heat, explains Dr. Abdallah, “so this is best checked early in the morning when you wake up after a good night’s sleep.”
Tracking the basal body temperature for natural family planning is not new. Many women rely on this fertility awareness method that uses temperature elevation to determine the day of ovulation.
“We’ve actually, in our line of work (as fertility specialists), been using it for a while to time ovulation and time intercourse for fertility,” says Dr. Abdallah.
While fertility awareness works well when used to help women who want to become pregnant determine the best days for conceiving, relying on an app to prevent pregnancy could be risky.
Does the Birth Control App Work? Will Using Natural Cycles Prevent Pregnancy?
With news of the birth control app’s FDA approval, many women now want to know if it works. According to the Natural Cycles FAQ page, clinical studies have shown that the app’s effectiveness is comparable to conventional contraceptive methods. However, some reports say the app is causing unwanted pregnancies.
In the Fox 26 video above, Dr. Abdallah explains the potential problem.
“Each menstrual cycle for the same woman is a bit different,” he says. “Sometimes you’re regular, regular, regular, and then you may have a shorter or longer cycle, and if this app doesn’t correct for that, you may be actually thinking you’re safe and you’re not safe, and thinking you’re not safe when you are safe, so it may not work.”
The Natural Cycles birth control app is approved for use in pre-menopausal women aged 18 and older. A free trial version is currently offered, but the full package with thermometer and tracker will cost $80.