Birth Control

Are Birth Control Apps An Effective Form Of Contraception?

The The Food and Drug Administration has approved the Natural Cycles program in August as a legitimate “contraceptive method to prevent pregnancy” ― the first app-based fertility tracker to get the agency’s seal of approval. The smartphone app helps people track their menstrual cycle and uses tracking and daily body temperature readings to predict days when they might ovulate so the information can be used for pregnancy planning or contraception. in pregnancy.

But while this algorithm-based, hormone-free birth control method may seem ideal, there’s a lot you should know about fertility tracking and how the app (and others like it) work before you decide if it’s right for you. you

Fertility tracking ― that is, knowing when you ovulate, so you can determine the days when you’re most likely to get pregnant ― has been around longer than apps like Natural Cycles have available to download. There are three main methods by which a woman can monitor her own fertility, explained Samantha Schona physician in the departments of obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive endocrinology at Michigan Medicine.

The first method looks at your cycle length. “The cycle is divided into two parts, the follicular phase and the luteal phase,” says Schon. “The luteal phase occurs after ovulation, and is relatively constant in most women – about 14 days. So in a 28-day cycle, ovulation occurs on the 14th day. In a 30-day cycle, this would occur on the 16th day. This method works best if you are fairly regular (you know you have a period every 28 days, 32 days, etc.).

A second method of tracking fertility involves looking at cervical mucus. “As estrogen increases leading up to ovulation, there are changes in the look and feel of your cervical mucus,” says Schon, that mucus that comes out of your vagina as a discharge and looks thin and elastic ― more like a “egg white.”

You can do it monitor your mucus every day to determine safe days and unsafe days to have sex, or use the simpler “two day procedure,” according to Planned Parenthood. This method involves asking yourself two questions: “Do I have cervical mucus today?” and “Did I have cervical mucus yesterday?” If the answer is “no” to both, it’s safe to have sex and probably won’t get pregnant. Note: This leads to about 12 “safe” days per cycle, though.

Other fertility monitoring methods include basal body temperature (BBT), which is the process used by Natural cycle technology. Normally, a woman’s body temperature before ovulation is between 97 and 97.5 degrees Fahrenheit, but it will rise slightly (less than one degree) as your body releases an egg. So, temperature monitoring can let you know when you are most fertile.

How apps work

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Natural Cycles some users monitor BBT to two decimal places with a super-sensitive basal thermometer (which you can buy separately). Then, the app informs you directly on the screen if you should “use protection” (spelled out in a red circle) or if you are “infertile” (in green). For best results, you should monitor your BBT at least five days a week, and allow around three cycles for the algorithm to get the hang of your personal cycle. If you have irregular cycles, the algorithm will have a harder time predicting when you are fertile and you are after more red days.

Basically, tracking your own fertility as a form of birth control is dicey, he said Alan Coppermandirector of the division of reproductive endocrinology and infertility in the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive science at Mount Sinai in New York.

“Fertility awareness methods, or the ‘timing’ method, are ineffective about 20 to 25% of the time at preventing pregnancy,” she says, meaning 1 in 4 people will get pregnant using procedure for one year. “Birth control pills, IUDs, implants, surgical procedures and of course condoms are more effective at preventing unwanted pregnancy.”

Natural Cycles’ guidance is better than old-fashioned fertility tracking methods, according to the FDA, though. The said the agency Natural Cycles’ “perfect use” failure rate of 1.8%, meaning that 1.8% of women who use the app exactly as they should within a year will get pregnant. The average usage failure rate, which covers potential user errors, is 6.5%, which isn’t terrible when compared to the effectiveness rate of other forms of birth control.

Should you track your cycle as a form of birth control?

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Because you must reliably monitor your BBT daily ― or check mucus, or know how regular your periods are ― and carefully follow directions for best results, many doctors are wary of using monitoring as your only form of birth control.

“It really depends on the patient,” says Schon. “Some patients have really regular cycles or they’re very in tune with their bodies, so it might be reasonable as long as you’re OK in case you get pregnant.”

If you really don’t want to get pregnant, you might consider duplicating a tracking app with another birth control method. It is worth noting that there has been a backlash from some women using Natural Cycles, including those who have had an unwanted pregnancy or a high number of days in the “red” where unprotected sex is not recommended.

If you’re looking for a hormone-free option, you might also consider a copper IUD ― which has a 99.9 percent success rate and very little chance of user error.

“Long-acting reversible contraception, like IUDs, will still be more effective,” Schon said, but noted that the reported effectiveness of apps like Natural Cycles and Dot is “similar to birth control pills.” (Dot also recorded research breakthrough, which reports an average usage failure rate of just 5% in March — though there are still worry about it effectiveness and the app has not yet received FDA approval.)

“I think [apps are] a reasonable option in a motivated patient with regular periods, who strongly wishes to avoid other methods of birth control,” Schon continued. “If patients do not want to be restricted in when they can and can’t have sex, then it’s not a good option.”

If you are interested in using an app as a contraceptive method, the The FDA warns Natural Cycles is not for “women with medical conditions where pregnancy would be associated with a significant risk to the mother or the fetus” or women currently “using birth control or hormonal treatments that prevent ovulation.” Before making that choice, talk to your doctor about which options are best for your needs.

All that said, the Copperman thinks of the Natural cycle and other apps tries to blend technology with fertility monitoring to “empower women with knowledge about their own reproductive biology,” which is, of course, always useful.

“Some women track their periods to identify fertile windows, others to track times when conception is more likely, and others just want to know their reproductive cycle,” she explains. .

The more you know, the more secure you are in your reproductive choices, right?

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