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Birth Control App Blamed For Unwanted Pregnancies, Abortions

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Nothing is foolproof, especially if it's a birth control app on a smartphone. A popular contraception app in Europe is now blamed for dozens of unplanned pregnancies.

A Swedish hospital is blaming a popular contraceptive app for over dozens of unplanned pregnancies in the last quarter of 2017.

European Union-certified Natural Cycles app that claims 99 percent efficacy on perfect use and 93 percent effectiveness on typical use is now under fire for falling short of its promise to prevent pregnancies.

The app touted as the first certified "digital contraceptive" that is as reliable as birth control pills is used by over half a million women across 160 countries.

Just A Fertility Tracker

Natural Cycles is basically a fertility monitoring app that tracks a woman's daily body temperature. Using an algorithm, the app analyzes the woman's body temperature and predicts the time of the month when a woman is in cycle and in need to use protection to prevent a pregnancy.

The Södersjukhuset hospital in Sweden participated in a study on the contraceptive last September and found that least 37 out of more than 600 pregnant women who had sought abortion at the hospital used Natural Cycles.

"To have 37 unwanted pregnancies out of the 668 mentioned in this study at Södersjukhuset means that 5.5 percent of women who stated they used Natural Cycles also had an unwanted pregnancy," according to a statement issued by the hospital. "This is in line with what we communicate as the risk of unwanted pregnancy with typical use, and which is comparable to other types of contraception."

Natural Cycles, however, responded that "no contraception is 100 percent," and unwanted pregnancies is an unfortunate risk as with any type of contraception.

Pill Replacement

Karolinska Institute in Sweden found that the app is as effective as the contraceptive pill but without the side effects and mood swings.

After it was first launched in 2013, the app gained popularity from the recommendations of several medical institutions and researchers of its 99 percent efficacy compared to the pill's 91 percent effectiveness.

In its own study, Natural Cycles said its product has a perfect use failure rate of 1.0, or one out of 100 women who use the app for a year may become pregnant due to several reasons, including wrong use of the app.

The app, created by Dr. Elina Berglund and Dr. Raoul Scherwitzl, was granted medical certification as a natural contraceptive to be used in the EU, including Sweden, Germany, and the UK. The start-up received a $30 million funding in November last year.

Green Is Go, Red Is No

Algorithms used by the app depend on a users' individual data. Users input daily temperature using a body basal thermometer that is included in a one year-subscription to the app.

The app will indicate the safe days as green days when the woman is not fertile, so it is safe to have intercourse, and the pregnancy rate is zero to low. Red days are fertile days, and the app recommends the use of protection such as condom unless the woman wants to get pregnant.

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