I ditched the pill for a contraception app, and I’ve never felt better
The Natural Cycles app is as safe as taking the pill
For the first eight months of taking the contraceptive Rigevidon, I had a pretty good relationship with the pill. I’d read petitions campaigning to have it removed from the NHS with some confusion, as I’d never experienced any side effects. I had regular periods, clearer skin and no slip ups.
That soon ended after just under a year of taking it. I felt low and irritable without explanation and suffered from stomach aches. I hated that I didn't feel like my usual self. I saw my GP who recommended switching to Loestrin, a pill with less oestrogen, but I noticed little change during the three months that followed.
They say it’s trial and error to find your perfect pill, but after five months of discomfort I wanted to stop relying on hormones. I decided to look into non-hormonal alternatives, and that’s when I discovered Natural Cycles.
Natural Cycles is the only certified contraceptive app that uses a unique algorithm to monitor female fertility. Each morning you measure your body temperature and input the reading into the app. It then calculates whether to allocate a red or a green day. A red day indicates it is unsafe to have unprotected sex and alternative protection must be used. A green day means you can have sex without a condom.
Like anyone would be, at first I was skeptical to use an app as contraception. But I felt ready to be in control of my own body. I did a lot of research before finally giving it a go, with my boyfriend and I reading the clinical studies and user reviews.
Putting your whole trust in technology is naturally nerve-wracking, but I can honestly say after five months of using it, I haven't had any scares. My initial worry subsided, and I am now at a point where I understand my body better than ever.
Using the app and committing to not taking hormones is worth it
Natural Cycles has no side effects as it doesn't impact your physical or mental health. As someone in a long distance relationship, it’s freeing to no longer take a pill only for the brief amount of time we see each other during term time.
Although they're working towards making it available on the NHS, Natural Cycles currently isn’t free. You can pay upfront for a year subscription and receive their thermometer for free, or you can pay monthly for £6.99. Get yourself a boyfriend that will go halves with you on the yearly subscription.
I now control my own cycle – in a natural way
When you first start using the app, you create your own unique profile. The algorithm develops to your own cycle and with more data, it gets to know you better. From using the app I now know the average length of my cycle and the different stages within that, so I know how my body will change accordingly.
It’s easy to use
Before I go to bed I put my thermometer next to my phone so that when my alarm goes off in the morning, the first thing I do is take my temperature. You simply pop it underneath your tongue and wait for the beep. Inputting data into the app is simple and it’s easy to monitor your own statistics.
The main factor it takes into account is temperature
Natural Cycles was developed by Swedish physicists Elina Berglund and Raoul Scherwitzl. Together using complex mathematics and data analysis, they developed the algorithm. The main factor it takes into account is temperature. In the luteal phase of your cycle, the release of the hormone progesterone causes your temperature to rise, indicating ovulation has occurred. The algorithm also takes factors such as temperature fluctuations, sperm survival and cycle irregularities into consideration.
It improves your understanding of your own body
The app sends you messages during different stages of your cycle to notify you of any changes you will experience. It lets you know when to do breast self-examinations, when you will experience PMS and other updates on your cycle and measuring.
It’s not for everyone
Natural Cycles isn’t like taking the pill daily. You have to be strict with measuring your temperature within the guidelines and follow the instructions carefully. The app is better suited to women in a relationship as in the same way as the pill, and it does not protect you from sexually transmitted infections.
Once you get the hang of it, Natural Cycles is an effective method of contraception that helps you become more in tune with your own body. If coming off the pill is something you are looking into, Natural Cycles is definitely an alternative to consider.
Since this article was published, the Natural Cycles app has been blamed for 37 unwanted pregnancies in one hospital. It has also been banned from advertising on Facebook as "highly effective" contraception.