Would You Trust a Birth-Control App to Prevent Pregnancy?

Natural Cycles has it all: millennial pink branding, an aesthetically pleasing Instagram feed and FDA-approval.

Dear the Pill: I’m sorry, but I hate you. I respect that you represent a revolutionary moment in reproductive rights, and I believe that all women should have access you. But, I hate you. And I’m not the only sexually-active millennial who feels this way: since 2011, there has been at least a 10 per cent drop in oral contraceptive prescriptions in Canada alone. In the age of the Internet and home-brewed kombucha, young women are paying more attention than ever to what they put in their bodies. Which means we want hormone-free, non-invasive birth control methods — and near 100% effectiveness.

And this is where your smartphone comes in. Your phone can tell you when it’s going to rain and what time a movie is playing, and yes, it can tell you whether or not you can have sex without unintentionally procreating.  Natural Cycles, the buzzy digital birth control that uses your body temperature to prevent – or plan – pregnancies, became the first contraceptive app approved by the European Medicines Agency last year. Last Friday, it became the first contraception app approved by the FDA. Here’s how it works:

“Based on a unique algorithm, the app analyses fluctuations in a woman’s basal body temperature to identify ovulation and predict fertile days. Women use the app in combination with a basal thermometer to identify fertile days when protection (or abstinence) is required.”

Essentially, it’s a tech savvy approach to traditional family-planning practices, or “rhythm methods.” And, you know, it comes with pretty millennial pink and purple branding with relatable quotes and cute selfies. (Or perhaps more importantly, it’s 93% effective under typical use. Which doesn’t sound great, but by comparison, birth control pills are only 91 percent effective when human error are accounted for.)

The app itself hasn’t *exactly* been approved by Health Canada, but the Canadian Public Health Association recognizes “Fertility Awareness Methods” as one of its listed birth control methods, and Natural Cycles is essentially that. But before you go ordering your own — yes, they ship to Canada —let’s just clear one thing up quick: just because Natural Cycles is taking contraception digital doesn’t mean you can take all your birth control questions and concerns to the Internet. Before switching contraception methods, it’s important to consult your health care professional. These innovations in the digital space come in a millennial- friendly package, but they might not be what’s best for your body. It’s cool to be curious, but make sure you’re cautious when choosing the birth control that’s best for you.