Technology is changing the conversation around birth control for women.
If you are one of the millions of women searching for safe, effective contraception, then this may be the most exciting thing you read all year. Natural Cycles has been approved as a class IIb medical device by a German-based certification organization, and was classified as a contraceptive in the European Union earlier this year. It is in the same risk category as condoms.
The Dark Side of “The Pill”
In a study done of over 4000 women, it proved itself 93% effective as compared to birth control pills, which measured at only 91% effective (per the FDA). Synthetic hormone birth control pills are considered the “gold standard” of birth control options, but also have the most dangerous risks associated with them. The mild side effects include weight gain, mood swings, acne and nausea. Serious side effects include cervical and breast cancer, heart attack or stroke, migraine, blood clots, gallbladder disease, infertility and decreased bone density.
Historically, the most effective forms of birth control available have been hormone contraception pills, IUDs (Intra Uterine Devices), and barrier methods. In addition to the risks of birth control pills, IUDs can cause uterine damage and toxic copper levels, and the awkwardness and user-errors associated with barrier methods leave much to be desired.
Frankly, I feel these birth control struggles have as much to do with women’s low libido issues as our hormones themselves do!
A married couple from Sweden, who are both physicists, created the Natural Cycles App. They collaborated with top experts in the fields of fertility and women’s health and used their knowledge of mathematical algorithms to come up with this system of tracking fertility. It takes into account your temperature, cycle irregularities, LH hormone levels (optional), and sperm survival rates.
It’s simple to use. Just input your 4-digit basal body temperature every morning, and within 1-3 cycles, the app will light up green when you’re not fertile, and give you the red light when you need to use other forms of protection. You can also input other information like the dates of your period, when you have sex, and your LH hormone levels if you’re using an ovulation prediction kit. The longer you use the app, the better it can predict your fertility. This means more green days where protection isn’t needed.
What About Perimenopause?
As you know, if you’ve read my book Before the Change, I have a special interest in perimenopause, the time just before you stop having periods completely. During this time LH (luteinizing hormone) levels are gradually increasing as ovulation becomes less frequent, and periods change in frequency and flow. Even though it’s confusing for us to track our own changing cycles, the good news is perimenopause shouldn’t have a lot of effect on the app, because it relies on temperatures. Your temperature doesn’t change with the rising LH levels, and even though you feel hot during a hot flash your temperature doesn’t change then either.
Does This Replace Natural Family Planning?
One form of birth control I haven’t mentioned yet is Natural Family Planning, which was known as the Rhythm Method back in the day. NFP has evolved beyond its origins, with many forms and methods available now. These methods range from 75% to 99% effective, all dependent on the user’s ability to follow the directions correctly.
In this study published in Science Daily back in 2007, one method of NFP was found to be as effective as hormone birth control pills. This method used temperature and cervical secretions to measure fertility.
The Natural Cycles App doesn’t replace NFP, but works hand-in-hand with it. If you measure your temperature for the App, and keep track of your cervical secretions for NFP, you will only increase the accuracy of your birth control.
It’s unfortunate, but 93% of women polled said they wouldn’t trust an app as their birth control. Yet the European Union gave it a vote of confidence large enough to certify it and put it in the same class with condoms. I’d like to see us as women knowing our bodies so well that a method like this is our first choice. Let’s continue this conversation over on my Facebook page. I’d like to hear your thoughts.