Leave it to a female Nobel Prize-winning particle physicist to develop a form of birth control that is hormone-free, doesn’t need to be inserted anywhere (permanently or temporarily), is able to offer the same effectiveness as the birth control pill, and can be accessed in the palm of your hand. And by palm of your hand, I mean your smartphone. Welcome to the future of managing your fertility, where your preferred birth control method of choice is literally available in the app store.
After discovering the Higgs boson (think particle theory and quantum-like stuff) Elina Berglund Scherwitzl and her husband Raoul Scherwizl (also a physicist) developed the app called Natural Cycles. When Scherwizl went off oral contraceptives, she wanted a safe and natural way to monitor her fertility.
To make their family planning easier, the physicist couple used their mathematical background and developed a proprietary algorithm which is able to determine the days a woman is fertile and the days she isn’t, all based on her morning basal body temperature.
What makes the app different from others that monitor menstrual and ovulatory cycles is the algorithm used, which uses each woman’s unique and particular temperature data in order to distinguish between fertile and non-fertile days. The app works on a sympto-thermal based system, tracking a woman’s recorded daily temperature, then running it through the algorithm which determines fertility.
“It feels incredibly exciting that there is now an approved alternative to conventional pregnancy prevention methods, and that it’s possible to replace medication with technology,” Elina Berglund told Business Insider.
It is also the first time ever a mobile app has been granted medical approval to be used as a contraceptive in the European Union, has been classified as a medical device, and has also received approval from Tüv Süd, a certification body, to be marketed as a medical device for contraception. That means it will be classified the same as the pill, IUDs, and condoms all across Europe.
If you’re thinking women have been using this natural family planning method (and other “fertility awareness” methods) to prevent pregnancy for generations, you’d be correct. But what makes the app different (and why it has been approved as actual birth control) is the high efficacy rate. Traditional fertility based awareness methods have an average failure rate of 24%, while Natural Cycles, when used in the “typical” way has a failure rate of only 7%. In comparison, “typical” use of the pill boasts a failure rate of 9%.
Dr. Berglund, co-founder of Natural Cycles, states, “Women around the world are interested in exploring effective non-hormonal and non-invasive forms of contraception, and now they have a new, clinically verified and regulatory approved option.”
As for when the app will be approved as contraception in the United States is unknown, as it will be required to undergo the same FDA evaluation process as all other birth control methods.