What if you used a fertility app as a form of birth control — and you accidentally ended up pregnant? Well, that’s what happened to 37 women who relied on Natural Cycles, a non-hormonal method of birth control that bills itself as “digital contraception.”
Of course, women tracking their periods to minimize (or maximize!) fertility is nothing new — but Natural Cycles was the first time that an app was deemed a medically certified form of contraception in Europe.
And yet, Södersjukhuset Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden discovered that 37 of the 668 of the patients who received abortions between September and December 2017 had been using the app.
As Wired points out, these numbers are from a single hospital in a single city — according to Natural Cycles, more than 500,000 people in 161 countries use the app, which is available on Google Play and Apple’s App store.
The app uses body temperature readings to determine when your ovaries will release an egg; according to the company, the algorithm takes irregularities into account.
Natural Cycles claims to work 93 percent of the time — Planned Parenthood, by contrast, says that fertility awareness methods are about 76 to 88 percent effective (though they make no mention of cell-phone technology). By contrast, “perfect” use of the pill is 99 percent effective — which translates to about 91 percent efficacy IRL.
Of course, since no form of birth control is completely foolproof, it’s hard to determine exactly what happened with the 37 Swedish women. Natural Cycles is currently conducting an investigation, however.
In a statement, a company spokesperson said that “unwanted pregnancies is an unfortunate risk with any contraception.”