Natural Cycles has portrayed itself as a “digital contraceptive” and a perfect alternative for artificial hormone pills and vaginal rings, but after a short while of it being on the market, reports of unwanted pregnancies started to flock in, prompting a watchdog to look into the matter.
Women have en masse complained about a birth control app, which despite being widely publicized, has failed to deliver on its advertised promises.
The co-called Natural Cycles smartphone application, launched by the Sweden-based married couple Elina Berglund and Raoul Scherwitzl, promised the “world’s first contraceptive app,” something “natural, hormone free & non-invasive,” according to The Guardian. In line with the developers’ most ambitious promises, the app was expected to “statistically” map a woman’s ovulation and periods of fertility based on daily temperature measurements and come up with the ideal time for unprotected sex.
For many who paid the £60 subscription fee, the algorithm worked for the first several months and then failed, making them feel more like “an overly trusting consumer” than “a patient” that bought the idea of dumping unhealthy hormone pills and rings.
According to one woman, she “felt colossally naïve,” as she used it just like all applications on her mobile phone – trying them without actually knowing how they work and taking their most shiny promises for granted.
Another one, having read the report, said that targeted ads from the company infuriate her, while others posted examples of the algorithm’s failures:
Another woman chimed in, calling on people to avoid abusive remarks and focus attention on contraception, which should be free and universally accessible:
Men also eagerly shared their beliefs, with one saying, citing the company’s “aggressive” marketing, and another one noting that the statistics on abortions might have been underestimated:
Earlier this year, a widely-known Swedish hospital reported that 37 of the 668 women who had sought an abortion there between September and December 2017 opted for Natural Cycles as their sole birth control, having abandoned others, which prompted the Swedish medical watchdog, Medical Products Agency of Sweden, to launch an investigation, including a review of the company’s certificate.
Natural Cycles, which hasn’t meanwhile seen a dip in the client base whatsoever, responded that the number of pregnancies is proportional to the registered number of Swedish users and “in line with their expectations,” since users were expected to allow for some space for human error, which is notably far rarer statistically than in the case of pills.
However, unlike the pill, clients are not covered for every single day of the cycle, frequently being advised to abstain from sex or use other, non-digital contraception on fertile days. To sum up, developers state that the app was meant for women who did not rule out the possibility of becoming mother sometime in the foreseeable future, but want to minimize the chance of it for the time being. The idea has also been picked on by the Twitter community:
Registered users of Natural Cycles number over 700,000 in more than 200 countries, with 125,000 of them in the UK.
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