Mixed reviews

FDA approval of pregnancy prevention app ‘mind-boggling’, says OBGYN professor

An endorsement by the FDA of the Natural Cycles contraception app is concerning some reproductive health specialists. (Instagram/Natural Cycles)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved marketing of a first-of-a-kind contraception app, but medical opinion is divided over whether it represents a step forward or back for women.

The Natural Cycles app aims to prevent pregnancy by calculating a user’s most fertile days in her menstrual cycle, based on her entering daily body temperature readings and other data, and warning which days she should avoid having sex (or to use ‘protection’).

The $79.99-a year app comes with a basal thermometer, to more sensitively detect the minor rises in temperature that typically happen when a woman ovulates.

While using an app to record temperature variations and calculate fertility is new, the method itself is not. “The idea behind this is fertility awareness where a woman tracks the days she is most fertile based on her basal body temperature and the timing of a cycle,” Dr. Jennifer Wider told Yahoo Lifestyle. “It can very effective, as long as it’s used correctly.”

Lauren Streicher, a doctor and professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University thinks the app is an “anti-contraception” throwback and its endorsement by the FDA is irresponsible. “What is this, the 1950s?” she says. “Instead of using real contraception for women that is proven to be safe and effective, this is essentially advocating an anti-contraception approach. To have the FDA endorse an app as being safe is just kind of mind-boggling.”

Streicher is concerned that success with this method relies too heavily on the user. With “perfect use,” the app failed 1.8 percent of the time in studies involving more than 15,000 women, but with “typical use” (which would include incorrect use, like having sex on fertile days) that figure rose to 6.5 percent. The Natural Cycles app received some unwanted headlines earlier this year when a Swedish news agency reported that 37 women in Sweden who sought a termination at a large Stockholm hospital in the last four months of 2017 had had unintended pregnancies while using the Natural Cycles app.

Ultimately, birth control is an individual decision, says Wider, adding it is a good idea for women to check in with their doctors about options.

Read the full story at Yahoo!


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