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Using The Natural Cycles App As A Contraceptive

Author: Fern Godfrey

A few months ago my social media feeds were filled with people raving about a great new app that helped track your fertility cycle, and therefore could be used as a method of contraception. This isn’t a sponsored post, I was just interested in trying it.

Like a lot of us, I was on the pill pretty much constantly from 15 to just before I had Elle. I’ve tried what feels like hundreds and hundreds and never found one that seemed to work for me. Going back on the pill after having Elle was the nail in the coffin for my relationship with it as my hormones went so wild I’m certain the pill contributed to my fragile mental health post baby. So being able to monitor my fertility using an app, rather than adding hormones to my body felt like a really refreshing alternative.

You can read all about the reliability of using Natural Cycles on their website. For me, the fact that it’s backed by clinical research and has been certified in Europe as a medical device intended to be used for contraception made me feel like I could trust it. Using a double decimal thermometer you are sent when you purchase the app, you simply measure your temperature each morning and tap it into your phone. If you’re fertile then the app tells you that you must use other methods of protection if you intend on having sex. If you’re not fertile – then that means you can have sex without using another method of contraception and you won’t get pregnant. This is much more clearly communicated via the app’s GREEN and RED days.

For some, this is a sticking point and they feel that because you have to use alternative methods of contraception on red days, the app shouldn’t really be classed as a contraceptive.

In terms of functionality the app is actually really great. I was unsure about whether I’d enjoy using it or not, as I’m not a numbers person, but the fact that it’s YOUR data makes it kind of fun. You’re supposed to measure your temperature each morning at the same time before you get out of bed. It even sends you encouraging messages, telling you you’re doing a great job – which lets face it, as a parent, I’m going to revel in this kind of praise wherever I can (HAHA). It also allows you to indicate whether you’re ill or hungover, essentially anything that may be a reason for an unusual temperature reading. Plus you can add whether you have any spotting or your period.

The app is clever in that you can switch over from ‘preventing a pregnancy’ to ‘trying for a baby’ which allows you to make the most of those fertile days.

My favourite feature however, is the fact that the thermometer stores your last reading so that the next time you turn it on, you can still add it to the app. This is great if you’re really not a morning person and the thought of reading numbers and tapping them into your phone as you wake up fills you with dread. I tend to add mine once I’ve had my fifth cup of tea of a morning.

So far, I’ve been tracking my cycle for just over a month. It’s been a little rocky as this last month has involved a hideous sickness bug (higher temp than normal), a broken phone which meant access to the app was tricky for a few days, and a camping holiday with no wifi which resulted in me having to write down a weeks worth of readings. Luckily the app allows you to add backdated readings.

There have been lots of red days, so in terms of changing our contraceptive habits (is that a phrase?! I’m going with it…) nothing much has happened. The app is also asking me to purchase an ovulation testing kit which I thought was a little sneaky. I’d rather this was included in the first place, along with the app and the thermometer. (I paid £39 for the app and the thermometer which I didn’t think was too bad for a years subscription. And would have paid a little more for the ovulation kit to be included).

Would I recommend it? Well so far, yes in terms of functionality and understanding your cycle. But I’m going to give it another couple of months before I can recommend it as a contraceptive tool. What do you think lovely RMF readers? Has anyone else tried the Natural Cycles app? Or does the thought of leaving your contraception to technology freak you out? I’d love to know!

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Author: Fern Godfrey
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42 thoughts on “Using The Natural Cycles App As A Contraceptive

  1. Hi!
    I’m definitely interested! Coming off the pill to conceive was quite liberating and I’ve found that I now don’t have the inclination to arrange a pharmaceutical contraceptive.
    I’ve downloaded the app for the free trial just to have a gander. X

    1. Hi Charlie, definitely have a look and let me know what you think. It’s not a quick change as it takes time for the app to really understand your cycle, but I’m hoping the dedication is worth it!!! xxx

  2. I haven’t tried this app but I did track my temperature before conceiving my first child. My period were irregular but I wanted to see if there was a pattern to when I ovulated.

    It sounds like there’s lots of science behind this, but a couple of questions I’d have are, firstly, but your temperature rises after an egg is released and as sperm can survive inside you for up to a week, isn’t there a risk that you could still fall pregnant by some rogue sperm lying in wait?

    Also, drinking alcohol can affect your temperature and give an incorrect reading and you also have to be quite religious about taking your temperature at the same time; does this App account for these too? It would be great if it did as I definitely do not want more children but am struggling to get my husband to agree to a vasectomy!

    1. I read this on their website, if that helps:
      ” Tap ‘Skip today’ or ‘Deviating temp’ in the add data view when you feel sick, hungover or have slept 2 hours more or less than usual.”

      1. Hi Cat, as Ann-Marie says the app accounts for deviating temperatures which is really useful. On the sperm survival thing, I’m sure this must have been considered in the research – I’ll have another read of the paper and see what I can find xx

  3. I have been reading into this as interested in using it. However sperm can survive up to a week and my daughter was conceived 12 day she after sex, his swimmers must be determined 😂 So after knowing that information from my doctor that most sperm survive a week but some don’t I have decided not to take the risk as defiantly don’t want number three at the moment!

    1. Oh gosh Jill what persistent little blighters 😉 Cat has mentioned this above, and it’s made me want to go and read the science paper again…I can’t believe that they wouldn’t have considered this xxx

      1. They must have surely considered it….worried I’ve given the wrong number of days but checked with my friend who works with families trying to conceive with IVF and confirms it can happen. It’s not common but not unheard of for them to survive so long. Don’t want to have to take hormones though so still intrigued by it as a few bloggers are talking about it at the moment.

        1. I’ve linked to the info on their website about this in a comment to Cat above Jill, it’s definitely interesting and something I’m going to stick with I think 🙂

  4. I’m so doing this – thanks for doing this write up Fern! I absolutely hate the Pill and haven’t gone back on it since my son was born. I feel like I’m now so much more aware of what my body is doing ever since he came along (I’ve paid a lot more attention to mybody since I’ve been pregnant / given birth – you realise what it’s capable of and that you should take care of it…!) so this sounds ideal. 🙂

    1. Kate I think you’d really like it. Definitely give it a go 🙂 Totally agree on the body thing, I’ve really enjoyed understanding what my body is doing xxx

  5. Oh interesting I also signed up to this a few months ago. I have only been using it for a few months so I am not 100% trusting it but for the first month it was all red days because it needed to get to know my pattern. Also I read that it may even be on the NHS as a form of contraception so it must be prettt accurate.
    I have had the implant for a long time and although I am not quite ready for a baby I decided that I didn’t want fake hormones in my body and wanted to know what was normal for me. What was side effects and what was just me.
    So far it has been unbelievably accurate, predicting the exact day I start my period, which I didn’t expect straight away as I thought I had an irregular cycle but it knows all things! 😊

    I would totally recommend it. But with all forms of contraception if you are having sex there is a risk and you have to be prepared for that. The statistics of people getting pregnant whilst on the pill are outstanding! So many people don’t realise if you are sick ect that the pill can lose its effectiveness. At least with natural cycles it’s my body and my choice, I feel like I know more about myself. For me right now it feels like the right choice.

    1. Glad to hear you’re having a positive experience using it Stef. I think I need another couple of months under my belt. I was shocked at how little I actually knew about my own cycle before I used this xxx

  6. Hmm I have to say I would be pretty unsure about this. I think it sounds great as a fertility tracker, but as a contraceptive I would caution as others have that sperm can live rather a long time… Also, I would be worried that the data might be sold on, cue lots of fertility adverts etc on Facebook or wherever. I’m always very cautious about data being stored on an app. I’m sure they have very solid privacy rules in place but still something I would want to read into much more first.

    1. Hi Annie, I will extract the research about the longevity of sperm ASAP, it’s on my list of jobs for today 🙂 Actually the data thing isn’t something that bothers me, I much prefer myself and my mental health when I’m not on the pill and so this app feels very freeing for me. I suppose it’s a price I’m willing to pay, but it’s definitely not for everyone xxx

  7. I’m really intrigued too. I’m so much happier and easier to live with off the pill, and have been using barrier methods only since 2011. Three periods of trying, three pregnancies, two babies. Very lucky. But it seems expensive (but that’s made me wonder how much I spend on condoms annually hmmm) and I’m not sure I could persuade my husband that it is reliable.

    But great to see innovation and conversations about the pill and its patriarchal problems. Side effects that caused the trial of a male version to be cancelled dismissed out of hand etc..

    1. Absolutely agree it’s great to see more options out there, this one still involves complete female dedication 😉 but heyho it’s a start as it’s side effect free. If you do give it a whirl let me know xxx

  8. I started using this about 3 months ago Fern. I think its great, I still have a lot of red days but I think thats just for the first few months of it trying to work out your cycle. It suggested that I use the ovulation kits too which I have (but ones I got from amazon) but now it sent me a message to not bother until instructed now (very firm!) as it will take a while to sort it out. I am up for any contraception that doesnt involve hormones/putting weird things permanently in your body that don’t belong there, so I am hoping in a few months time it will be really accurate and lots of green days! 😉

    1. Oh that’s interesting Vanessa, maybe depending on the result it needs time to see if you’re ovulating a few days before or after it thought you were? Hope that makes sense, it did in my head! Here’s to lots of green days for all of us 🙂

  9. I am so interested in this too and was just reading about it a few weeks ago. I’m not married yet and don’t want a baby until after that so we’re talking a good 2-3 years away. However I feel like I don’t want to take the pill anymore, it’s been 15 years. I also think it has seriously dampened my libido. I would love to try coming off it but not sure if I am convinced this app is accurate enough just yet? Does it give any advice on switching from the pill? Do you need to have a natural cycle first?

    1. Hi Bunny, the advice if you’re on the pill is to wait a week before you start. I actually think once you stop taking the pill your cycle returns to normal much quicker than you think. It feels like there’s a myth in the air that it takes years, but I really don’t think that’s the truth. This is all from personal/friends experience however, so not remotely backed up by Science!!! I had horrible side effects with the pill so I can totally empathise. I definitely think it’s one to start with caution, but it has all of the medical backing to be used as a safe and certified from of contraception xxx

  10. I started using Natural Cycles about 5 months ago, saw all the adverts on my social media and decided to give it a go as an alternative to the pill, I think I had always got on with the pill as I didn’t think it affected me too terribly. I just didn’t like the idea of loading my body with hormones.

    Initially I had so many red days and fluctuating temperature that I thought i would give up on it. But eventually I got into the rhythm of taking my temperature as soon as my alarm goes off. Once it works out your cycle you get loads more green days, I too take my temperature turn the thermometer off and input the data once I’ve showered and am feeling a bit more human!

    As it happens we started trying for a baby last month so I changed the settings and instead was told of my more fertile days, and then as luck would have it today I’ve changed my settings *once again* to ‘preggo cycler’

  11. Just another word of caution! I’m a big fan of cycle tracking and was using an app and carefully doing this after my son was born … lo and behold I conceived again just 3 months later during my ‘non-fertile’ days! So I’m currently 6 months pregnant with a 9 month old crawling around. It’s all very exciting but do be careful with cycle tracking apps if you absolutely don’t want to get pregnant. I’m an endocrinologist (essentially a hormone doctor) so like to think I am pretty clued in when it comes to ovulation/cycle timing etc., but I am proof that sometimes life has other ideas! So I would happily use as a guide, but not trust any app or cycle tracking 100%.

  12. I am on cycle two and love this app 🙂 you can get the ovulation tests at boots super cheap – I got 5 for £4.50, boots own ones and they worked perfectly! I’ve lost weight, my skin has cleared up and my anxiety is gone! Best decision I’ve ever made.

  13. I recently got this app after reading about it on Wired, and i love it. I’m so glad someone finally came out with this while i’m still of childbearing age. Back when i first became sexually active, i bought a BBT thermometer and tracked my temperatures and signs in a notebook. I’m a biologist and naturally curious, but now there’s something actually medically certified. I know it might not be for everyone, but here’s the thing: neither is hormonal contraception, although they push it like it is. I’ve tried 3 or 4 hormonal methods over the years, and always ended up feeling sick, nauseous, my sleep/wake cycle reversed, my anxiety went from moderate (normal for me) to extreme, extremely painful headaches, fainting. I’m grateful for Natural Cycles; the only concern i have is that you’re forced to have either an iPhone or Android. I was planning on getting rid of mine in 2019 when the Librem comes out, but then again that’s not for certain it will be a suitable replacement for this phone anyway.

  14. I love the Natural Cycles app. So far it has worked very well for me.

    I would advise against ordering goods from their website, however (unless you happen to live in Sweden. They seem to ship most if not all good from Sweden and charged me $10 shipping costs alone for 3 packets of condoms.

    They currently don’t make this charge clear until you are on the final confirmation screen (unless you read the terms and conditions thoroughly), so let’s hope they improve that over time.

    Otherwise, no complaints!

  15. I’ve been using this method for a couple of years without the app, in the Catholic Church it’s one of the only approved forms of contraception and has been taught for some time now.
    Now I don’t want to get into a religious debate but just wanted to mention how women have been using this method in the pre-app age.
    When I learnt about the “basal body temperature” method through the church my husband and I were advised to meet a trainer who would meet with us every fortnight until we were ready to completely understand all the data (took about 6 months).
    Advantages of this are:
    1) partner involvement and commitment, it’s not just the woman who has to be responsible for this
    2) most importantly over the 6 months we met our trainer they were able to explain all the questions everyone has raised in the comments ie change in temperature, sperm living for longer than 1 week, etc
    3) you will learn things about your cycle that the app can’t ezplain to you, for example on one of my cycles my temperature did not change, my trainer explained that there are instances where we don’t ovulate, we can still get our periods but it’s not necessarily due to post ovulation. This is interesting for women trying to conceive.

    My point is I think the app is great and I have no doubt that the scientist have considered a lot of the possibilities, however to really use this method effectively I would back it up with having a trainer that can take you through your own journey for at least the first 6 months.

    The beauty of this this method is getting to know your. body. Having a trainer really helps give awareness of how your body works and helps you understand and translate the data that you are re ording everday.

    If you are catholic I would recommend asking your church about this, they have this in all churches. Otherwise try asking around in natural family planning clinics.

    Hope this helps.

  16. I’m seriously considering this but has anyone got any advice about coming off the pill and onto this…I don’t want babies yet but I’ve been taking the same pill since I was 16 (I’m now 30!) And although I’ve not had any issues with it I want to clear my body of the hormones and learn more about what is natural for me. Then when I am ready for babies I’ll understand my body alot more. Is there any advice for how to transition from pill to this?

    1. Just come off it, there shouldn’t be any side effects, they tend to be little if any. I was similar to you – was on the pill from a young age and it was a strong one (can’t recall name) because it was also to treat some acne I was dealing with. About 4/5 years ago I just decided one day to stop taking it. I didn’t want to be filling my body with hormones anymore and wanted to balance my body into a more natural state. Irony is if your body is naturally in balance you shouldn’t experience acne anyway (just the odd breakout). Low and behold I have just turned 30 and have started to realise how imbalanced my body is. I have been on the path recently to try to correct hormonal imbalance and hypothyroid. Unfortunately the pill contributed to a messed up body more than I realised; so I am very thankful to have ditched the pill when I did. As for balancing hormones I came across Dr Jess on Instagram (@dr.jess.md) and I am using her natural herbs to get my body back into balance and get rid of excess estrogen; along with a balanced healthy diet of course and reducing dairy. (I also used to drink a lot of soy in exchange for cows milk which is also really not good for hormones, I now have almond or rice milk). I haven’t tried this natural cycles thing but wouldn’t be against it. Sorry for long reply, hope it somewhat helps 🙂

  17. I am in my second month of using the app and absolutely loving it. Unfortunately I am unable to take any form of hormonal contraceptives so it’s been condoms all the way until this app. I feel completely liberated. The first month only gave me 6 green days (4 of which were during my period) but it’s gone up this month. Obviously it takes time to get to know you and your cycle before the green days increase but if anything that makes me trust it more!

    1. my question is does sleep pattern affect the effectivness of this app?
      i bought this APP but i am still on my pills, which i really hate. i dont like the extra heromo idea and i feel this is cheating to my body.
      but i have bad sleeping patterns. dont know if the sleeping hours or time may affect the result or not

  18. I have recently started using this app but what I’ve noticed is for example this week was showing all green days last week. As I’ve been adding my temperature this week the days have been turning green so I haven’t had an red days this week.

    My concerns with this is that I measure Monday – Friday but I’ve got a strong feeling this weekends predictions are not very accurate. For now it is showing green for Friday, Saturday & Sunday but how accurate is Saturday and Sunday? Because within the past few days it was showing green until I added in my temperature each day was turning red.

    Should I measure on Saturday & Sunday to be safe? Or should I just start measuring 7 days a week?

  19. Hi Fern,

    Firstly, thank you so much for your article – it really helped me when trying to make the decision on whether or not to use the app. I did end up purchasing it and I love it.

    I’m one of the types of people who doesn’t trust that a thing works without understanding how it works so I didn’t want to use the app for contraception until I found that out. In case anyone else is interested this is what I found from my reading:

    There is something called luteinizing hormone (LH) that spikes right before ovulation, and you can measure that (although it’s not necessary for the app to work). After ovulation progesterone spikes, causing increased body temperature – again, you can measure that.

    I’m really enjoying the app. If anyone is thinking of purchasing it this URL (https://app.naturalcycles.com/?webSignup=1&refId=171e367d4d864a3e901731e5dfe78f07&refCode=referralid10#/reg-reg) is a discount code that will give you 10% off the yearly subscription, which includes a free basal thermometer.

  20. Hi, this article has been very useful! The pill has affected my mental health particularly bad both times I’ve tried even when using the lower hormone variation. As C has asked, how are you finding the app now it fully understands you cycle? I’m really keen to give this a go and enjoy the perks of pill free life!

  21. I have suffered on the pill.. but didn’t realise how much it affected me until I came off it 2 weeks ago.. already less bloating better mood and in general happier. Being nearly 35 doctors become a bit more apprehensive about prescribing the pill.

    I saw this on line and did a massive amount of research before deciding to jump in. Again like with any contraception.. It’s only as good as the user. It’s going to take time to get to know myself but fingers crossed.. It’s the way forward

  22. Hey Fern, thanks for the post. I’m came across this story in my search for more info about the app as I’m considering trying it. I have an anxiety disorder and have never wanted hormonal contraception in case it messes with my anxiety, I had an IUD for years which was very effective for me but getting it out caused a lot of stress and anxiety and I decided not to replace it. I wondered if you have any follow up to the story about the app? I’d love to find another hormone free option (aside from condoms which aren’t the nicest thing in the world in long term relationships). I’m a bit hesitant about it though. I’d want more kids one day but now’s not the right time, so the idea of not having any physical contraception makes me a little nervous. How are you finding it now? Thanks 🙂

  23. I like the app and the fact that the app seems to have scientific backing.

    What I can’t get over however, is that none of the reviews that I’ve read mention how impractical using the supplied thermometer is…it beeps continuously once it displays your temp. and it doesn’t have a backlit screen…which means that a really simple task is turned into a super-faffy job that involves the torch on your phone and waking your partner up.

    Hand on face emoji for Natural Cycles from me on that one…

    1. This is such a good point Elle!!! The thermometer IS really silly. I tend to switch it off immediately and then read my temp later, but still – loud and dark aren’t good characteristics for something you want to use discretely and without turning the lights on xxx

  24. I love this app! I started using it last April with the purpose of avoiding pregnancy. It was easy to use and definitely effective (no pregnancy). Towards the end of August, I switched it over to try to become pregnant…success on the first try! (I’m due in May!) I’ve never been comfortable with the idea of hormonal birth control, so I love that this app is an option. That being said, I’m married (unplanned pregnancy would not be the end of the world), have regular cycles, and am very responsible about taking my temperature and inputting the data daily. This app is clearly not going to fit everyone’s situation, but it has been great for me!

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