FDA approves first mobile app for contraceptive use


The Food and Drug Administration has approved marketing of the first medical mobile application that can be used as a contraceptive, the agency announced in a written statement.

FDA icon Wikimedia Commons/FitzColinGerald/Creative Commons License

The app, called Natural Cycles, contains an algorithm that calculates the days of the month women are likely to be fertile, based on daily body temperature readings and menstrual cycle information, and is intended for premenopausal women aged 18 years and older. App users are instructed to take their daily body temperatures with a basal body thermometer and enter the information into the app. The more-sensitive basal body thermometer can detect temperature elevations during ovulation, and the app will display a warning on days when users are most fertile. During these days, women should either abstain from sex or use protection.

In clinical studies comprising more than 15,000 women, Natural Cycles had a “perfect use” failure rate of 1.8% and a “normal use” failure rate of 6.5%. This compares favorably with other forms of contraception and birth control: Male condoms have a perfect use failure rate of 2.0% and a normal use failure rate of 18.0%, and combined oral contraceptives have a perfect use failure rate of 0.3% and a normal use failure rate of 9.0%, according to the Association of Reproductive Care Professionals.

“Consumers are increasingly using digital health technologies to inform their everyday health decisions, and this new app can provide an effective method of contraception if it’s used carefully and correctly,” Terri Cornelison, MD, PhD, assistant director for the health of women in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in the statement.

The app should not be used by women with a condition in which a pregnancy would present risk to the mother or fetus or by women who are using a birth control or hormonal treatment that inhibits ovulation. Natural Cycles does not protect against sexually transmitted infections.

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