(NEW YORK) – The US Food and Drug Administration has for the first time launched an anti-baby app as a contraceptive method.
The Natural Cycles app calculates when a woman is most fertile based on her daily body temperature and her menstrual cycle data.
The app then tells users which days they are more fertile and should abstain from sex or use protection if they do not want to get pregnant.
"Consumers are increasingly using digital health technologies to make their everyday health decisions, and this new app can be an effective method of contraception if used with care and accuracy," explains Dr. Terri Cornelison, deputy director of women's health at the FDA Center for Equipment and Radiological Health, said in a statement.
"But women should know that no form of contraception works perfectly, so an unplanned pregnancy could still result from the correct use of this device," she added.
The app had an error rate of 1.8 percent in clinical trials involving more than 15,500 women, or an average failure rate of 6.5 percent, according to the FDA. The typical usage error rate included women who sometimes used the app incorrectly or unprotected sex on a day the app indicated that they were fertile.
However, Natural Cycles has been controversial in Europe as some women have reported unwanted pregnancies while using the app as their main form of birth control.
The Swedish public service broadcaster SVT reported that 37 out of 668 women who received abortions in a Stockholm hospital from September 2017 to the end of December 2017, used the app and still had an unwanted pregnancy.
Dr. Jennifer Ashton, chief consultant at ABC News, emphasized that no method of contraception except abstinence is perfect. Therefore, it is not surprising that women have become pregnant during use.
Ashton added that apps can be useful because they make women aware of the monthly changes in their bodies. However, if a woman chooses to use a birth control app, she must have a plan of what she would do if she had an unplanned pregnancy.
Most contraceptive pills, according to Ashton, have a "typical usage rate" of about 9 percent, which is actually higher than the app's rate, the FDA said.
Yet, Asthon says that women should ask their doctors about the risks, benefits, and alternatives for each method of contraception they use.
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