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EU says Natural Cycles app is a form of birth control – but what is it?

A Swedish mobile app that helps women avoid pregnancy has received authorisation from regulators to be used across the European Union – but what is it, and how does it work?

Natural Cycles sends users a thermometer allowing women to take daily temperature readings. Because of temperature fluctuations over the course of a menstrual cycle, the app can analyse daily readings and tell a user when she is at risk of pregnancy.

The European Union’s recent decision to authorise the app as a valid method of birth control paves the way for a significant shift in the way the public thinks about contraception.

For many women, Natural Cycles will be familiar to the “rhythm method” of contraception – a major advantage being the lack of implants, pills or hormones.

A potential next step for the company is to acquire approval from the US Food and Drug administration. The FDA is yet to approve any fertility apps in the US.

The app works by telling women of their relative fertility throughout their cycles. A green day signifies when a woman can have unprotected sex without pregnancy risk. A red day tells them they cannot.

The product only informs of the risk of pregnancy. It has no impact on preventing sexually transmitted infections.

According to the company, 7% of women get pregnant per year due to having unprotected sex when the app tells them not to or incorrectly using an alternate contraceptive red days.

Additionally, 0.005% of women get pregnant yearly due to falsely attributed green days.

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