Hand holding up Natural Cycles phone screen with the text 'not a period tracker'
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A birth control app, not a period tracker

Jen on the roof terrace at Natural Cycles headquarters.

Written by Jennifer Gray

Jennifer Gray

Jennifer Gray is an award-winning writer with more than five years’ experience covering reproductive topics ranging from birth control to planning pregnancy. She is passionate about providing women with accurate information grounded in science they can use to take charge of their own health - while also dispelling myths that exist within the field of women’s health. She holds a Master of Science from the University of Edinburgh and currently lives in Ireland.

Medically reviewed by Jack Pearson, Medical Affairs Manager at Natural Cycles

Jack Pearson

Dr. Jack Pearson is a previously HCPC registered Embryologist with a PhD in reproductive medicine. Prior to joining Natural Cycles leading Medical Affairs, he worked for more than 10 years in a clinical setting working at some of the busiest fertility clinics in the UK. Today he spends most of his time working with experts at the world’s leading institutions to carry out important research with the vision to further the field of female health. He earned his PhD from the University of Sheffield specializing in Sperm Metabolism and currently lives in London.

In this digital age there are loads of apps out there for cycle tracking, period tracking, and monitoring our health in general. However, Natural Cycles is not a period tracker - and while we’re often confused as one - there are a number of features in our app that make us very different. Read on to find out exactly why we’re a birth control app, not a period tracker, and what this means for your personal fertility journey.

Cycle trackers & period tracking apps

Keeping track of menstruation is an important part of our routines. It allows you to monitor patterns in your cycle and see how regular your bleeding or spotting is. We think it’s great that there are so many options for tracking periods – we no longer have to rely on simply writing in our diaries or marking on a calendar, which has been the norm for women for a long time!

That said, noting our menstruation dates alone cannot teach us all there is to know about our unique cycles. Menstrual cycles are sensitive and can change if we’re stressed, our diet alters or we aren’t getting enough sleep. By simply tracking periods, we can observe the changes, but we can’t anticipate them. Which is why period tracking apps should not be used to prevent pregnancy. While cycle trackers might give a prediction of the fertile window, an app that’s based off the rhythm method will give static predictions, which means you won’t know until the end of a cycle if the fertile window has shifted – making it too late to prevent a pregnancy. 

So how can we more accurately predict the fertile window?

Understanding when ovulation takes place in the cycle is a key part of identifying the fertile window. It’s possible to find ovulation by taking LH tests which measure a surge of hormones in urine, or by charting basal body temperature to find the spike in temperature which is also triggered by hormones and signifies ovulation has taken place. However, finding ovulation alone is not enough to prevent pregnancy. This is because of sperm survival – sperm can live for up to five days inside the female reproductive system, so having sex five days before ovulation puts you at risk of getting pregnant.

This is where Natural Cycles comes in. Our birth control app uses basal body temperature data, paired with an algorithm which learns the pattern in your cycle, so it can predict and find ovulation from cycle to cycle. The app gives green days for days when you’re not fertile and red days when there is a risk of becoming pregnant. If the algorithm is ever in doubt, it errs on the side of caution and gives a red day. With a daily fertility status, you’re in no doubt where you are in your cycle and if there is a risk of becoming pregnant on that day. 

What can Natural Cycles be used for?

Natural Cycles is cleared as birth control by the FDA in the United States and is CE Marked in Europe. It’s the first app of its kind to be certified birth control. If you want to know more about our process for getting approval, check out the science behind our birth control effectiveness for details on the study of over 15,000 women. 

However, finding the fertile window is not only helpful for preventing pregnancy. Since there are only 6 days in any cycle when we can conceive, finding these accurately is crucial for planning a pregnancy too. Our latest study compared Natural Cycles to calendar-based methods and found that Natural Cycles was able to find fertile days more accurately.

On top of finding the fertile window, using Natural Cycles offers unique insights into our own bodies and helps us find patterns in our cycles. Using the app you can discover the regularity of your cycle, note recurring symptoms, and see your unique temperature curve from cycle to cycle. Our community of Cyclers – women who use the app around the world – often tell us the ways in which they have learned more about their bodies in their reviews of Natural Cycles

So, in conclusion, if you are looking to monitor your cycle, then a period tracking app will probably suit your lifestyle, but should be used alongside a birth control method if you need to prevent pregnancy at the same time. If you are looking for an app that can help you prevent or plan a pregnancy, then you need an app that is tailored to your unique cycle. Natural Cycles is 100% hormone-free and you can sign up online today.

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