‘I felt colossally naive’: the backlash against the birth control app
Natural Cycles was hailed as a stress-free, hormone-free contraceptive. Then women began reporting unwanted pregnancies
Sat 21 Jul 2018
Last summer I had an abortion. Statistically unremarkable, yes, but mine wasn’t because of a split condom or a missed pill. I was four months into a tense relationship with a much-hyped Swedish “digital contraceptive”, a smartphone app called Natural Cycles. I had spent my 20s on the pill, but hated not knowing whether my emotional state was down to artificial hormones or not. My boyfriend and I had been together for eight months, and I was desperately seeking something new, something that wouldn’t make me feel so anxious.
That’s when the adverts started following me around on social media: glowing women reclining in Scandi bedrooms, all pale grey sheets and dappled light, brandishing basal thermometers and telling me how great it felt to “get to know yourself better”. Natural Cycles’ ads promised the “world’s first contraceptive app”, something “natural, hormone free & non-invasive”. I could start using it without a two-week wait for a doctor’s appointment and so, in a fug of hormones and frustration, I bought a subscription. I was sold on shiny promises, a sleek user interface and the fact that a former Cern physicist, Elina Berglund, was at the company’s helm. But four months in, it failed. Berglund helped discover the Higgs boson; but it turns out her algorithm couldn’t map my menstrual cycle.