This article was originally published in Italian in 2018.

HOW RELIABLE ARE APPS TO PREVENT PREGNANCY?

Cycle monitoring apps are booming, with millions of women now using them to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

I’ll get right to the point because I have to go shopping. Here are the main problems that arise:

  • The vast majority of the apps proposed as contraceptive methods, including Natural Cycles, are not symptothermal methods, but calendar methods. As a result, they pretend to predict ovulation, which is scientifically impossible without invasive interventions or the use of expensive LH hormone detection kits (which by the way are wrong 4 times out of 10, and 10 times out of 10 if you have polycystic ovary syndrome, because LH is always high). Simply put, the symptothermal method educates you to recognize whether you are fertile today, day by day, or not; Natural Cycles &co. teach you nothing, everything is decided by an algorithm and on the unlikely deduction that, since it snowed last Christmas, it will snow again this year. Bottom line: the symptothermal Sensiplan has an efficacy index for typical use of 98.2%, Natural Cycles of 93%.
  • By abdicating everything to an algorithm, you leave women in complete ignorance of their bodies and their reproductive health. The symptothermal method, for example, can help you identify hormonal imbalances and their evolution. It is very useful for those who cannot get pregnant, for those who suffer from pain, spotting, heavy flows, violent mood swings, etc. Would you prefer to learn to read and write, or do you think it is better to have a machine that reads aloud for you, and writes for you, without you having the faintest idea of the meaning hidden in those symbols drawn by the mechanical apparatus?
  • Data protection! Last week I was at a conference in Cologne, and 200 of us watched horrified a demonstration of “ghosting”. In less than 20 minutes, starting from an anonymous comment left by a woman on the forum of one of these apps (where she described in detail her sexual behavior, family planning, menstrual disorders and pathologies) we could discover her place of work, city, date of birth and FB profile. Evil; and without breaking the law, that is. On Ebay these databases are sold and bought by recruitment agencies and pharmaceutical companies. Voilà l’horreur.
  • The blue light of electronic devices suppresses the production of melatonin and increases the production of cortisol, aggravating or causing insomnia, irritability, wrinkles and other amenities. If you already spend eight hours at your PC, plus a few hours between your mobile phone and TV, listen to me, switch to pen and paper.
  • At the end of the game, they cost more than the symptothermal method – Natural Cycles costs about 65€ per year, every year. The symptothermal method, learnt with a certified teacher, costs the right amount, and how much will depend on whether you do the course alone or in a group (maximum three to four people) but it gives you better tools, and then you are autonomous, free and independent for life.

 

AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE

Apps are the future, no doubt about it. But today they’re still too unreliable. Stiftung Warentest, a very authoritative German consumer association, analysed 23 apps in November 2017 and the results are poor: only two apps proved to be effective enough (Lady Cycle and MyNFP  to be precise). All of the others have failed the test and quite a few – including Clue or Flo, which, to be fair, don’t claim to be contraceptive apps, but then tell you when, according to them, you’re fertile, thus misleading thousands or millions of distracted people.

In fact, apps will ALWAYS be unreliable unless women and their partners have a solid knowledge of reproductive physiology.

Knowledge requires studying, attention, embodiment and responsibility. It can be done! What do you think?

LEARN MORE

If you want to learn more about technology, and its potential harmful effects on pain and mood, you can read about the lights and shadows of the apps.

To explore the topic of body literacy, take a look at what could lie behind menstrual pain, and what is the meaning of your cervical mucus and basal body temperature.