I Tried Using an App for Birth Control and What I Found Might Surprise You

If you’re like me, you probably get a ton of ads for health and wellness products. While I keep scrolling through most of them, one for Natural Cycles aka “the world’s first birth control app” caught my eye.

At the time, Natural Cycles and non-hormonal birth control was interesting to me because I hadn’t taken hormonal birth control in more than a year. I removed my Mirena IUD in May 2021. I made the decision to take it out because I had no period at all for around 7 years and felt meh and out of touch with my body. So, when I came across an app that could prevent pregnancy – without hormones or side effects – I was admittedly skeptical, but ready to give it a try.

I’ve been preventing pregnancy using Natural Cycles ever since and haven’t looked back. Natural Cycles is powered by an algorithm that uses your body temperature to tell you when you’re fertile or not (aka when you can get pregnant). Using this information, you can avoid unprotected sex with your partner if you’re not trying to get pregnant or it can help you plan pregnancy faster if that is your goal.

And if you’re thinking to yourself, “my grandma used temperature to track her fertile days, and she had like 19 kids.” There’s more to this.

When Elina Berglund Scherwitzl, co-founder of Natural Cycles and particle physicist (if title matters to you), was looking for a natural birth control option, she couldn’t find one that lived up to her scientific standards of accuracy. So, she started to track her own basal body temperature (BBT) with a BBT reading and started building a predictive algorithm.

Cut to years later and a big enough data set, she and her husband Raoul Scherwitzl created what’s now Natural Cycles. Today, Natural Cycles is the first contraceptive app on the market Cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for pregnancy prevention. It’s also the only one to be CE certified in Europe and listed with the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods. That means that Natural Cycles is a regulated medical device, which means it’s subject to audits by the FDA and other government bodies and protects its users’ data with the same high standards as a hospital.

So, this isn’t your grandma’s temperature method. Based on a peer reviewed study of more than 15,000 women and more than 180,000 cycles, Natural Cycles is 93% effective with typical use and 98% effective with perfect use, perfect use is no unprotected sex on fertile days.

In addition to helping me prevent pregnancy, Natural Cycles has taught me so much about my cycle. I have a handle on what changes it – exercise lengthens the time between periods for me, by the way – and I’ve learned so much about reproductive health that I honestly feel like I should have learned in school.

So, how do you use it?

For me, my alarm is set for 6 am, and the first thing I do is take my temperature and enter it into the Natural Cycles app. It’s important to take your temperature before you get out of bed and start your day – you want your body to be as at-rest as possible. As an aside, it’s also been a nice way not to snooze and sleep a little longer (but you can of course fall back asleep after you measured, if that’s what you’re into). After 30 seconds, I log the temperature in the app, including both decimal points. Today my basal body temperature was 97.67 degrees and the app gave me a Red Day, aka a fertile day (use protection day) and predicted that I was ovulating tomorrow. It also suggested that I take an LH test, which is optional, that can confirm that ovulation is approaching. Days when I’m at no risk of pregnancy I get a Green Day from the app.

Do you have to manually take your temperature?

Not anymore! Natural Cycles and the Oura smart ring are now compatible, so any Natural Cycles user with an Oura Ring, no longer have to manually take their temperature. The NC° app can automatically sync temperature trend data from the Oura Ring, which has temperature sensors.

This partnership wasn’t completely surprising to me since my husband wakes up every morning and tells me how he slept, not based on how he feels, but based on the data from his Oura Ring.

What can change your temperature besides ovulation?

Sofie Askervall, Global Marketing Director at Natural Cycles, told me that sickness, hangovers and sleeping differently can change your BBT, for these instances, it is best to exclude your temperature. But the algorithm throws out outliers like spikes in temperature due to fever or a big night out. She and the team at Natural Cycles recommend measuring your temperature on weekdays, at least five days a week.

This is great, but what about the Roe. v. Wade of it all?

I stopped tracking my cycles briefly after the June 24 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down Roe V. Wade and I know a lot of women were concerned about the privacies that were no longer federally guaranteed. 

Like a lot of women, I want to make sure that if something happens in my private medical life that I’m not criminally prosecuted. Aka, will they hand over my data?

Here’s what co-founder Berglund Scherwitzl said:

“We are evolving our privacy policy to make sure our users are protected against potential legal situations and we will be launching an anonymous experience for users soon. This will make it so no one – not even us at Natural Cycles – can identify the user. As reproductive health access is threatened, the best way we can help all women is to make sure they have access to a safe, over-the-counter, effective form of birth control. We are aware that a large number of women do not use any form of birth control, including those who use period trackers that are not intended to or effective at preventing pregnancy. We are here for anyone to use, and are currently working hard with outside organizations, including insurance companies, to make sure anyone who wants to use Natural Cycles, can do so. Cost should never be a reason to not use birth control.”

OK so how much does it cost and does insurance cover it?

When signing up for the app, you can select to prevent, plan or follow a pregnancy. You can change that selection in the app when your life stage changes. It costs $99 annually or $12.99 monthly. Natural cycles is actively working with private insurers to support a seamless pathway for reimbursement. At present, Natural Cycles is FSA/HSA eligible.

Want to try it for yourself? Use code “ASWEATLIFE20” for 20% off the annual subscription and a free thermometer.

Partner Women's Health

About Jeana Anderson Cohen

Jeana Anderson Cohen is the founder and CEO of asweatlife.com a premiere wellness media destination that creates content and community to help womxn live better lives and achieve their goals. Before founding health-focused companies Jeana earned a degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison - and fresh out of college she worked on the '08 Obama campaign in Michigan. From there, she created and executed social media strategies for brands. aSweatLife fuses her experience in building community and her passion for wellness. You can find Jeana leading the team at aSweatLife, trying to join a book club, and walking her dog Maverick.