More and more Australian women are using natural contraceptive apps to avoid unwanted pregnancy, but how reliable are they?
Menstrual tracking apps are often used to help women trying to conceive to help identify their most fertile days, but the same logic could be used to pinpoint when women are least likely to conceive.
A recent study suggests the use of so-called natural birth control methods are making a comeback
Before the days of contraceptives many women used what is known as the rhythm method, where a woman tracks her menstrual history to predict when she will be ovulating.
Apps like Natural Cycles, Clue, Kindara and Flo use an algorithm to tell users when they are ovulating and predict fertile periods.
Used with a basal thermometer to detect the small rises in temperature that occur during ovulation, they tell users when it’s “safe” to have unprotected sex and when it’s not.
A Monash University survey of over 2,200 sexually active women last year found a considerable uptick in the use of such fertility awareness methods compared to studies from previous years.
Family Planning Victoria medical director Kathleen McNamee said hormones had received a “bit of a hit in the media” in recent years.
“People just want to go back to something that they feel is more naturally in line with their bodies’ rhythms,” she said.
“Nearly every time when we ask someone when they last got their period, they’ll take their phone out to check; they’ve nearly all got an app.”
Natural Cycles made headlines when it became the only medical app to be certified by European Union health authorities as a contraceptive.
It claims to have a 93 per cent efficacy rate — similar to the pill.
But the app came under fire when Swedish media reported a wave of women were seeking abortions for unwanted pregnancies while using the app.
Dr McNamee warned the apps could not always account for fluctuations in women’s cycles, and stressed their efficacy was highly dependent on how they were used.