What is Natural Cycles?
Natural Cycles is an ingenious mobile app that is changing the lives of women all over the World, and we cannot praise it enough here at TCBE. It is classified in the EU and by the FDA as a medical device for contraception and is used by women in combination with a basal thermometer and protection (or abstinence) on fertile days, as indicated by the app. It allows women to move away from traditional forms of hormonal contraception and puts them more in control of their own bodies and family planning. For anyone who is dubious about the negative side-effects of hormonal contraception, or planning a pregnancy, it's a beautiful blessing.
So how does it work?
The Natural Cycles algorithm analyses your body temperature to tell you where you are at in your cycle and when you need to use protection or abstain from sex to prevent a pregnancy. It reminds you to measure your temperature with a basal thermometer when you first wake up in the morning and the algorithm uses this reading as an indirect measure of the hormone levels in your body, analyzing the temperature measurements you enter into the app to detect ovulation, and let you know if it's a day when you need to use protection or abstain (a red day) or not (a green day).
Users with fairly regular cycles, who enter temperature data 5 times or more per week, can expect to reach around 60% green days/ cycle after 3 months of usage (i.e. no need for protection on these days), and the number of green days gradually increases the longer you use the app.
There are some factors that can effect the algorithm so it's important to follow the instructions given carefully, and to check on their website if the app would be suitable for you to use before signing up to it. You can take a handy quiz here to find out if the app would be a good match for you.
Studies have shown that Natural Cycles, when used for contraception, is 93% effective under typical use. This means that an average of 7 out of 100 women will get pregnant in a year when using Natural Cycles. Typical use effectiveness takes into account all possible reasons for becoming pregnant while using the app: from having unprotected sex on a red day to the app wrongly attributing a green day or the chosen method of contraception on a red day having failed.
What are the benefits?
- Effective, hormone free contraception with no known side effects
- Meets a woman’s desire for a more ‘natural’ approach to contraception and a better way to understand her body and cycle
- Provides personalized information on fertility
- Data can be used to facilitate conception when the wish arises
- Tracks physiological markers that may have clinical diagnostic value
What are the drawbacks?
- Less effective than long-acting reversible contraception (LARC)
- No protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Daily routine of temperature measuring required
- A couple must be willing to use protection (or abstain from sex) on red days
- No hormone-related benefits for diagnosed medical conditions, such as endometriosis and heavy menstrual bleeding or for bleeding management and cycle control
If you are seeking out a natural, non-hormonal method of contraception then Natural Cycles offers a good alternative for most women. It takes a little getting used to, but we think that you'll soon find your rhythm with the app after a few monthly cycles and probably get to know your body's own natural signals in a more intimate way. We think it's a huge step forward in offering women a more natural choice when it comes to contraception and family planning.