Hyped Birth Control App Natural Cycles Reported to the Authorities – After 37 Unwanted Pregnancies
Hyped birth control app Natural Cycles is being blamed for falling short of its promise to prevent pregnancies by Stockholm hospital Södersjukhuset, which is reporting the company to the authorities, reports SVT.
Södersjukhuset concluded that at least 37 women who had used the app before they sought abortion at the hospital had become pregnant against their will. These women belong to a sample the 668 women who had sought abortions at Södersjukhuset since September.
Södersjukhuset has filed a complaint with the Medical Products Agency of Sweden; the authority that approved Natural Cycles to much fanfare in February last year, in effect paving the way for the company’s global expansion.
Now the company will have to deal with the authority again.
“It’s a new method and we are seeing a number of unwanted pregnancies, and therefore we are now reporting this to the Medical Products Agency,” says Carina Montin, a midwife at Södersjukhuset (SÖS) to Siren, the newswire that first reported the news.
To use Natural Cycles, women take their body temperature every morning and enter it into the app. Using an algorithm, the app will determine a probability of getting pregnant by classifying each day “red” (high risk of pregnancy) or “green”.
It’s not clear exactly why Natural Cycles hadn’t been able to prevent the pregnancies. Montin points out that for Natural Cycles to work properly, it requires that the user has a regular menstruation cycle and follows instructions closely.
“Perhaps it’s the case that young people should use a safer contraception,” she says.
Natural Cycles says on its website that its app is 99 percent safe when used under perfect conditions. On average, 6.8 out of 100 women who use the app get pregnant.
The fast-growing app has more than 600,000 users, with the UK recently surpassing Sweden as the company’s biggest market. Natural Cycles recently raised $30 million USD, in part to take on the US, where expansion is still dependent on regulatory approval from the FDA.
Not the First Setback for Natural Cycles
This marks one of the most well-publicised and coordinated cases that could potentially harm Natural Cycles image.
However, Natural Cycles, which fought the Medical Products Agency of Sweden (and will perhaps have to do so again) for years before being approved as contraceptive, is used to operating in strong headwinds.
As always, Natural Cycles best hope – even amid cases involving the most emotional things known to man, pregnancy and sex – is science.
Earlier this year, Natural Cycles was part of a study which found it to be more effective than the contraceptive pill, with a 93 percent (out of 100) score on the Pearl Index under normal use.
However, Natural Cycles said in the same breath it needs to conduct more research. Berglund Scherwitzl, who previously worked as a particle physicist at CERN, admitted her team will likely face pushback from the scientific community for some time to come.
Berglund Scherwitzl has rejected the claim that the app’s users risk being misled by having it as an alternative alongside the pill, IUDs, and condoms.
“We try to be very clear in our communication that if you do use withdrawal [as a contraceptive method] on red days then your pregnancy probability is much higher,” she told TechCrunch last year.