I have long been an advocate for turning to natural methods whenever possible in my everyday life. This crazy hippie journey has been a wild ride like switching to The Oil Cleansing Method instead of using store-bought cleansers, throwing out my tampons in favor of the diva cup, making my own skincare, and going no-poo, but the real challenge has been finding a natural method that works as an effective non-hormonal birth control.
Don’t get me wrong, I think hormonal birth control definitely has its place, and for a lot of women, it’s their only option. But for me, the circulation issues, the onset of spider veins in my legs after long use, the intense mood swings, and the weight gain were just too much for me to deal with after 5+ years.
There had to be another way. So, I began to research for an alternative and picked up a book called Taking Charge of Your Fertility.
It was within this book that I learned about cycle tracking through the monitorization of basal body temperature, cervical fluid consistency, and the time since the last cycle to chart and determine the fertility window.
For a while, it seemed to work quite well! But sure enough, and I’m sure I’m not the only one here, I began to slack off when it came to charting on paper. I would forget to write down my temperature for that morning or forget to check my cervical fluid and that’s where things can become too questionable as far as unprotected sex goes. Pregnancy just isn’t a risk I’m willing to take just now in my life, so I needed something a bit more fail-safe.
Reason being, I’m the type of person who has a hard time staying on schedule with things like this (just ask my husband how terrible I am at keeping up with taking my supplements!) which is why I decided to look for more convenient options that are quick and simple to use.
Enter the Natural Cycles App.
What is The Natural Cycles App?
If you haven’t heard of Natural Cycles, it’s a fertility app that was developed by physicists Elina and Raoul Berglund. The app uses advanced mathematics and data analysis to accurately detect and predict ovulation and fertility.
This algorithm takes into account your basal body temperature (your body temperature upon waking), sperm survival, temperature fluctuations, and even cycle irregularities.
Compared to other methods of birth control, it’s efficacy is on par with the pill if used properly.
I should mention that this app requires you to use a “basal thermometer”. When you purchase the app, Natural Cycles will send you one. If for any reason you need a new one, I like this one. Keep in mind that these more accurate thermometers take a lot longer to use – up to 90 seconds! It can be annoying, but it’s worth it to me.
How to Use Natural Cycles
Upon waking, a woman uses a basal body thermometer to measure her temperature every morning (sublingually in areas called “heat pockets”) and enters her data into the app.
The app makes this very convenient because it will automatically load the temperature input page for you upon waking. No need to fumble with your phone flipping through menus! Just select the app and enter your temperature.
Once the temperature is entered, the algorithm will formulate your personal result for the day (and the following days for the month) as either a “red day” or a “green day”.
“Red Days” indicate an increased risk of pregnancy and mean that you should NOT have unprotected sex on those days. Sperm can live for up to five days, so it’s important to abstain from sex or use condoms on red days.
“Green Days” indicate a low risk of pregnancy and mean that you can have unprotected sex on those days.
You can see how that will look on the app in the photo below:
I must stress the importance of paying attention to your body since ovulation day can fluctuate based on high levels of stress, illness, lots of exercise, underlying fertility conditions, and so on.
I have used Natural Cycles perfectly every day for over a year without incident, but I know that every woman has a unique cycle and time of ovulation, so be sure to pay attention as you get used to using the app.
Other factors that can influence the ratio of red days to green days include:
• Altitude (this is a personal finding! When I would stay the weekend at higher elevation it would impact my basal body temperature)
• Atypical fluctuation in basal body temperature (this can include fever, altitude, and other factors)
• Having highly irregular cycles
• Having recently discontinued hormonal birth control
Since this is the case, I highly recommend that if you decide to use the Natural Cycles app that you also use it in conjunction with LH strips starting daily as soon as your period ends for the next 14 days. Do this for several months (longer if you’re irregular) in order to help the app learn your unique fertility window.
Based on my personal experience, I know to pay close attention to my fertility window to see what factors in my everyday life affect it.
Rate of Success Using Natural Cycles as Primary Non-Hormonal Birth Control
With scientific studies backed up by 224,563 menstrual cycles including over 22,785 women, Natural Cycles has rated the app’s efficacy as follows:
Typical-use effectiveness of 93%
The typical use failure rate for this app is 6.8, which means that 6.8 women out of 100 will become pregnant during one year of use. This is comparable to typical-use rating for the pill which has a failure rate of 9 which means that 9 out of 100 women will become pregnant in one year using the pill.
Perfect-use effectiveness of 99%
Using Natural Cycles perfectly has a failure rate of 1.0 which means that 1 out of 100 women will become pregnant who use the app for one year.
This can be due to:
• Unprotected sex on a green day that was falsely attributed as a non-fertile day; or
• Protected sex on a red day but the chosen method of contraception failed
These results are based on 22,785 typical and perfect-use individuals who used the app for an average of 9.8 months.
Another study conducted on 4,000 women, published in the European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Healthcare got these results:
The app’s failure rate for “typical use” (a term used to refer to how most people use a form of contraception) was 7%. Or, for every 100 women who used the app in a “typical” way (meaning certain common slip-ups are accounted for), seven got pregnant each year. In comparison, the “typical use” failure rate for the pill is about 9%, according to the CDC. […]
For “perfect use,” the app was also found to be fairly similar to the pill in terms of effectiveness – among those women who used the app perfectly, about five out of every 1,000 got pregnant (a 0.5% failure rate). Among women who use the pill perfectly, about 3 out of every 1,000 get pregnant (a 0.3% failure rate).
That’s way better than traditional fertility-based awareness methods, which have an average failure rate of 24%, according to the CDC.” (Source)
According to Natural Cycles:
• Users with fairly regular cycles who enter their temperatures at least 5 times per week can expect to reach 60% green days after 3 months of usage.
With perfect use, I have been able to reach 72% green days, but keep in mind that every woman will be different.
Pros and Cons of Using Natural Cycles
Tips on How to Use Natural Cycles
This app works best if you stick to a regular sleep schedule. That means getting about the same amount of sleep each night and waking up at around the same time (+/- two hours) every morning.
Things to Keep in Mind:
1. If you oversleep, your temperature will be higher. If you under sleep, your temperature won’t have the chance to lower to your basal body temperature.
2. If you drank alcohol the night before, are hung over, or are sick, your temperature will also be affected.
3. If you get out of bed and move around before taking your temperature or wake up and stay awake for more than a few minutes before taking your temperature, it could affect your basal body temperature. To prevent these factors from becoming an issue, I will simply take my temperature earlier if it is within the two-hour window when I normally take it if I wake up and can’t fall back to sleep.
4. Also, room temperature can play a role in body temperature as well. If your room is really hot or really cold then your temperature upon waking can be affected.
When I first started using the app, I was really anxious over the whole “stick to a sleep schedule” thing. But really, it was super easy!
What I did was determine when I usually go to bed (which is around 10-12pm) and then figured out how many hours of sleep I get per night on average (which is about 7-8). I usually wake up between 8 and 9 am no matter when I go to sleep.
Next, I set an alarm to go off every day at a time I would normally not wake up naturally that was within that +/- two-hour window (I chose 6:30am) to ensure that I take my temperature at the same time every day without me having to worry about whether or not I got enough sleep. I technically have between 4:30am and 8:30am to take my temperature if for some reason I didn’t take it at 6:30am.
So, in essence, my alarm goes off at 6:30am, I put in my temperature, and go back to sleep.
I’ve been using Natural Cycles for over a year now and I haven’t looked back since! Even my husband is on board and often puts my temperature into the app for me on weekdays before he leaves for work.
I think using this app as team has been a nice change since preventing pregnancy really does involve two people. It makes us both feel empowered, in-tune, and knowledgeable when it comes to my cycle and he is often the one who says “Hey! We’re getting into red days, time to be careful”.
And the cool part? When we DO want to start a family, Natural Cycles has a “flip” option where it will actually HELP you get pregnant using the same algorithm.
Is it worth the cost?
The convenience of having an app that works for my needs is well worth the cost. I personally wasn’t good at keeping up with tracking on paper and I often had trouble pinpointing my ovulation day.
The app takes away a lot of guesswork and it’s quick and simple enough to use that it doesn’t feel like a chore so the $80 is worth it to me.
So, do I recommend the app?
In fact, I even have a 20% off coupon you can use to get your first year subscription.
CLICK HERE to get the discount.
If you have more questions about using the Natural Cycles app, please check out their Q&A page here for more information.
Have you ever used Natural Cycles? What about other apps? How did you like them? Please share in the comments below!
You may also enjoy reading:
Essential Oils for Fertility
The Best Herbs for Fertility in Women
The Best Herbs for Male Infertility
Natural Remedies for Menstrual Cramps
How to Boost Fertility for Men and Women Using Essential Oils
How to Treat PCOS Naturally
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