We trust our smartphones with almost everything nowadays: our family photos, our presentation, even our bank details. And why not? If my analytics are anything to go by a lot of you see my articles from the convenient access of your phone screens (and I love that you choose to do so).
But where is the limit?
What if, for example, you had the chance to use your phone as a contraception method?
Well now that’s a possibility.
Dr Elina Berglund is the physicist behind an app that is designed to act as a comprehensive contraception.
How is this possible? Well, according to Natural Cycles women are only fertile for 6 days in one cycle on average (and this is the current scientific consensus). What Natural Cycles does is locate those days and let you know when you’re on a fertile day so that you can avoid intercourse during this time period.
The app divides these in to red days (fertile) and green days (safe to fuck), and users are expected to have more red days at first, but the app’s algorithm does eventually sort the system out and get things right. So much so that it’s actually been clinically certified and holds the same coveted CE certification as items such as condoms.
How Does It Work?
To my great surprise, the Natural Cycles app uses body temperature to monitor your fertile days, something I had never considered before but which makes sense biologically. Different hormones can cause slight changes in your temperature, and by taking a measurement before you get out of bed the app works its magic (or should I say science).
Of course, for this process to work you need more than just the app. A two decimal based thermometer of high quality is also a must, but contraception is often worth investing in.
It’s also important to note that this app works as a contraceptive only and not as protection from STIs. And, as with any contraception, there is a margin of error. In this case it’s 5 women out of 1000 per year. No contraception is perfect and we all balance the risks.
By adding further information, such as periods, hormone test results (if you have them), and sex, the app becomes even more accurate over time. But, more than this, the Natural Cycles app arguably gives you more awareness of your body, as you suddenly start giving it more consideration than you might have before.
This, I’ve noticed, is a benefit that comes with many apps. Put the time in to a fitness app and you’ll suddenly start feeling more in the know about your exercise regime, get a finance app and the same applies. But, still, it’s a nice perk.
Is It Worth It?
One important thing to note about the Natural Cycles app is that it’s not free. The service is either £5.99 per month or £39.99 per year. In the UK the pill is free (as is the coil and the implant), 144 non-latex condoms can be purchased for £43.00, and 72 standard condoms can be purchased for £9.99.
And this is where my bias comes in.
From a personal stance I know that I couldn’t trust an app to act as my main form of contraception (Let alone my only form).
By Natural Cycles’ analysis, using the well-recognized Pearl index of contraceptive, their app either meets or exceeds the standard of contraception met by other typical forms. And, even better for some, it comes with no side effects and allows users to experience sex without a condom (important for some). The one year plan even comes with a thermometer, cutting down expenses and justifying the investment a bit more.
But how many of us really stick to our apps? Can the devoted Angry Bird fans among us still say that they keep up with each new update? How about those who have tried out a To-Do list app or something similar? I personally got Clue a while ago (a great period tracking app) and, although the app was solid, my memory when it came to putting in the data really wasn’t.
Heck, half the reason i’m still keeping up with my Fitbit progress is because the app auto updates with my progress. If I had to put in more manual data I doubt my tracking would be anywhere near as diligent (and if the app didn’t remind me to charge the battery I’d have far less steps under my belt).
Knowing this about myself I know that I just couldn’t keep up with the contraceptive app, despite any good intentions I might have, and I imagine this would be the same for many others. While we don’t like to admit it, humans are often a forgetful bunch and a contraceptive method, no matter how reliable in theory, is not always as reliable in practice.
I also can’t help but worry that my temperature may fluctuate for a bajillion other reasons, that I may wake up and take measurements too erratically for a consistent reading to be given, or that I’d somehow miss an important update and throw things out of balance.
And if I was in a situation where I couldn’t utilize my technology, where it just wasn’t an option, what then? We like to think we are constantly plugged in nowadays, but that isn’t always the case, and this contraception relies on diligence in order to function at its best.
For me there are too many ways that a person could find themselves high and dry to currently make it viable, even if it is certified…at least when it comes to my lifestyle.
But, The Option Is There
And how awesome is that? For those who count themselves as diligent app users and who have found themselves exasperated, let down, or deterred by typical forms of contraception, technology is now providing an alternative that will allow people another way to pursue sex on their own terms.
I may know myself well enough to know that it most likely wouldn’t work for me, but how amazing is it that we are getting to a point where contraception methods are branching out in to technological approaches? The big question being ‘Would you use it?’