Contraception: Foolproof or Russian Roulette

Back in December 2017, I was at the end of my tether when it came to hormonal contraception methods. I was fed up with the horrendous side effects it gave me (heavy periods, recurring BV, mood swings), so I decided to give Natural Cycles a go.

Natural Cycles uses a woman’s basal temperature to detect ovulation and flag up fertile and non-fertile days. Us women are only fertile six days a cycle, so the algorithm will calculate this, then tell us to go for gold or suggest we cross our legs.

The facts and figures

According to Natural Cycles, the effectivity rate is at 93% (based on a study of 22,000 women over two years), which means seven out of one hundred ladies will find themselves up the duff if they rely on the app alone (and use it correctly). Sadly, the app costs. It’s not big bucks, but still, £39.99 a year ain’t pocket change.

Despite the logistical difficulties of using the thermometer (like measuring every morning at the same time, in the same spot under the tongue, after the same amount of sleep, on the same side of the bed, in the same position…you get the idea), I was happy to rely on it as a contraception method, pleased I’d finally got my body back after years of tricking it into thinking it was pregnant – hurrah!

Well, I was until I met my boyfriend, who doesn’t trust the app or the purple and white thermometer as far as he could throw it – and he isn’t alone in this thinking.

Since 2017, Natural Cycles has been approved across the EU by the German Inspection and certification organisation, Tüv Süd. To date, it now has more than 700,000 users from 200 countries (125,000 of them in the UK), but recently the Swedes have placed it under review. They found 37 of 668 women who had an abortion between September and December 2017, in one of their major hospitals, were using Natural Cycles as their sole birth control method.

How to measure correctly

I pride myself on being a morning person, I’m up with the birds (maybe not the bees), but measuring correctly is still something I struggled with. Finding the thermometer and sticking it under my tongue as soon as the first (of many) alarms goes off is not an easy task. It started to disrupt my sleep, I’d wake in the middle of the night, unconsciously measuring at 3 am thinking it was morning.

The other half is old-fashioned when it comes to technology, he wouldn’t know an app if it smacked him in the touch screen, so I can see why he’d have a tough time trusting Natural Cycles to keep us un-pregnant, so we decided to use condoms when we’re under the sheets (which is working swimmingly btw).

The ones who came before

With previous partners, however, condoms were discarded down the side of the bed along with underwear and floral cushions. They would complain they couldn’t get them on, they ruined the moment and they made it feel shit, and yeah, I used to hate condoms too, after years of suffering from vaginismus getting ‘it’ in was trouble enough, without adding rubber to the fire.

Of course, the problem with most contraception methods is human error, according to condoms have an 82% effective rate, it should be 98% but we aren’t sex bots who do things perfectly every time (it’s hard to see what you’re doing in the dark), so using the app and condoms seemed like a good idea in practice, but the measuring complications and his doubts playing on my mind meant I fell out of the habit quite quickly and was measuring less and less.

Unfortunately Natural Cycles definitely hasn’t left me feeling footloose and fancy-free, but I’m happy to use it as a period tracker: I can predict my PMS, I know when I’m ovulating and I know my monthly cycle. I’m getting to know what’s going on down there and getting in tune with my body, but there are other apps that do this and they’re free.

So it seems there isn’t an easy solution when it comes to contraception, it just comes down to what risks you’re willing to take and what side effects you can put up with, so for me for now, condoms will have to be the way forward..and the way in.

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