Australia’s first birth control app has been approved by the TGA. Do they work? – ABC News

Natural Cycles, a "hormone free and natural form of birth control", has become the first "digital contraceptive" to be approved by Australia's drug regulatory body, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

The app works by calculating your daily fertility status, so you know when you can have unprotected sex without falling pregnant.

The product costs $14 a month, claims to be 93 per cent effective, and uses daily temperature checks to determine a user's fertility.

While there's nothing new about the 'fertility awareness' method (there's lots of cycle tracking apps out there), this app is the only one that's been given the Australian tick of approval.

There's two key things that make this app different to others.

You have to enter in your daily basal body temperature and the dates you get your period. Then the algorithm calculates your fertile and non-fertile days (the fertile window is around six days long).

So the more data you enter, the more accurate it'll be.

And Dr Elizabeth Farrell, Medical Director of women's health organisation Jean Hailes, says that's an important thing to remember: you're the one responsible for its effectiveness.

"Yes, it will be very helpful for some women, but you've got to be fairly rigid about taking the temperature on a daily basis and looking at the app and seeing when you can have sex or whether you need protected sex," Dr Farrell told Hack. .

Dr Farrell says that just because the TGA has approved the app, it doesn't mean they're saying it's a highly effective method.

She said even though the developers have funded some studies, it's not going to have as much scientific evidence behind it like other contraceptives.

"Devices don't have the same rigour of study that a medication does."

The Natural Cycles app is being questioned by Australian sexual health experts

The Natural Cycles app is being questioned by Australian sexual health experts

Michaela from Camden NSW, has been using a fertility awareness app for five years after having a bad experience with taking the pill.

"I was having lots of issues with anxiety, it was affecting my mental health and libido and I was getting a lot of hormonal acne," she said.

"So, I looked into a whole bunch of other options and this just felt like the best for me to try."

Michaela thinks there's not a lot of information out there about the 'fertility awareness' method and that leads to misconceptions.

"[When I told my friends I was using an app] they told me I was silly and that I was going to get pregnant.

"It was perceived as a very alternative-like-hippy method, [people would say] like why wouldn't you want to take the pill, the pill's safe."

But Michaela is happy with her choice and hasn't become pregnant while using the app method.

Michaela from Camden, NSW has been using a fertility tracking app as a form of birth control for five years.

Michaela from Camden, NSW has been using a fertility tracking app as a form of birth control for five years.

Making the right decision for yourself is something Dr Deborah Bateson, Medical Director for Family Planning NSW, strongly supports.

She said it's all about people making informed choices, weighing up all the different options and finding out what works best for you.

"Fertility awareness methods and apps can help women better understand their bodies, are relatively cost-effective, and have no side-effects," Dr Bateson said.

But she said for some people it's just not going to suit - like if you're not an organised person, or you have irregular cycles, or an illness. Dr Bateson also pointed out that this method is not the most effective contraceptive on the market.

"If you've got a medical condition where a pregnancy would be a risk for the mother and the foetus, then obviously that lack of reliability, that relatively high failure rate, compared to other methods like an IUD would not be something that we would recommend."

Dr Bateson says over the years there's been an increase in young people seeking non-hormonal birth control methods.

"Young women want alternatives to the pill," Dr Bateson said.

She said there's still so many myths around IUDs, but the copper IUD is the most effective non-hormonal birth control method (99.5 per cent effective).

There are also more permanent methods to avoid pregnancy such as vasectomies and tubal sterilisation.

Other non-hormonal contraceptive options are condoms, diaphragm, the sponge, and the unreliable "withdrawal method".

If you're having sex for the first time, or thinking of changing the contraceptive you currently use, head to your GP or Gynaecologist for a chat and find the best option for you.

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Australia's first birth control app has been approved by the TGA. Do they work? - ABC News

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