Would You Trust a Contraceptive App? These Women Did

Photo: Stocksy

Perish the thought of letting nature take its course—now we can’t resist monitoring our monthly cycles with apps, charts and forums. Why this is appears to fall into three common camps. First is the appeal of a far less queasy and much more natural contraceptive method that isn’t the pill, condoms, the coil or injection.

Two—the desire to become more in tune with our menstrual habits, especially if irregular periods are an issue and three—an aid to increasing awareness of when we’re at our most fertile in order that we can conceive quickly and easily. Because despite what we were told in sex education, not everyone is going to conceive when they get within sneezing distance of some sperm.

The magnitude of how reliant we’re becoming on these apps, though, was even shocking to me. I had no idea how many of us were at it, tracking everything from temperature to cervical fluid to mood swings to bleeds. When I put a shout-out on Facebook to see if anyone had ever used one, all of my friends who have now had babies came forward.

It also surprised me how many apps there were—Glow, Ovia, Clue, Kindara, My Days, Period Tracker—although the only one that’s “certified” (and also a paid-for subscription) is Natural Cycle. Billed as a contraceptive app, it studied almost 23,000 women with an average age of 29 to demonstrate how plotting their periods and could be the answer to avoiding pregnancy.

They backed up the accuracy of their algorithms with three clinical studies, and overall success rates came out at 93%. Sounds good, except when you realise that means seven women out of 100 may get pregnant while using the app. The reason for this? Method failure (where the app has a blip) or manual failure (where you input the wrong data).