More and more women are seeking terminations after using fertility apps as contraception – and things are going to get worse, Britain’s leading abortion clinic has warned.
The most popular app, Natural Cycles, has come under fire for false advertising after 37 women from one hospital complained of unwanted pregnancies after using it.
Bosses were this week told the app would face a probe by watchdog the Advertising Standards Agency.
Fertility apps track monthly reproductive cycles using an algorithm. It is based on research from a trial of tens of thousands of women and hundreds of thousands of cycles.
The apps then tell women if they are ovulating or if it is safe to have unprotected sex.
The Natural Cycles app has 100,000 UK users paying £6.99 per month.
When used correctly, it claims to be 99 per cent effective – better than condoms, the Pill and the IUD, as well as the traditional family planning “rhythm” method.
But Julia Hogan, who oversees contraception and nurse training at abortion clinic Marie Stopes, last night warned that fertility apps were just a “techie version of natural family planning”.
Also known as the rhythm method, where women work out if they are ovulating to avoid conception, natural family planning has got a relatively high failure rate, Julia said.
Natural Cycles is the only fertility app to be approved by medical standards agencies.
But earlier studies of natural family planning have shown that it has a 24per cent failure rate – worse than other forms of contraception.
In January this year, Natural Cycles was reported to authorities after being linked to 37 cases of unwanted pregnancy at one hospital in Sweden.
Now several British women have complained they got pregnant while using it as contraception.
Our investigators found a host of British women complaining online of unwanted pregnancies after using Natural Cycles.
One 24-year-old from London posted on the Natural Cycles Instagram page: “I’m sad to say that after having relations with my partner on a green day after my periods, I became pregnant. I am beyond devastated.”
Natural Cycles works on a system of “green days”, where women should not be fertile and “red days”, when they are.
Speaking to the Sunday Mirror, the woman said she became pregnant after seven months on the app.
Many other women have made similar comments.
Nurses have also reported an increase in pregnant women seeking abortions after using fertility apps.
Ms Hogan said: “The nurses I have been training say they are seeing more women coming in who have got pregnant while using apps. We don’t collect any data on methods of contraception use at the time of conception, so it is purely anecdotal.
“But I would say that we have seen an increase. It is safer to use a more traditional form of contraception. Fertility apps are a techie version of natural family planning and that has got a relatively high failure rate.
“You also need to be very disciplined to do it.
“It has become more popular because women are saying ‘we don’t like hormones’ – but then we would be counselling strongly to use the copper coil.”
Natural Cycles relies on advertising on Instagram to market its product to the masses. Its Instagram page has pictures of dozens of young women from around the world claiming to love the app.
It is also “liked” by celebrities including supermodel Cara Delevingne and Corrie star Helen Flanagan.
The app was approved by German testing organisation Tuv Sud, which is one of the certification bodies employed by the Department of Health to test the safety of new drugs and medical devices.
Natural Cycles has said cases of unwanted pregnancy are an “inevitable reality” with any form of contraception, not just its app.
“No form of contraception is 100 per cent effective and unwanted pregnancies is an unfortunate risk with any contraception,” it said in a statement.
But it is not only its general effectiveness that has been called into question. The company, based in Sweden, has also been heavily criticised for its advertising methods, where it attacks other forms of contraception.
Last year, Natural Cycles sent out a controversial press release in which it declared “a link between hormonal and contraceptive depression”.
But the Danish study it was referring to reportedly only found women were more likely to be depressed if they took the Pill – not any other forms of contraception.
Ms Hogan said: “I think this blackening of the name of hormones is really not useful.
“It is also not looking at many of the protective elements of having those things either.”
Clare Murphy, a spokesman for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said: “They really played into ‘hormonal contraceptives are bad, it’s all about my body is my temple’.
“They took this specific approach to it which left a slightly nasty taste in the mouth.”
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"I bought all the spiel and trusted them"
Jamie Farrants, 32, lives in Enfield, North London, with her boyfriend, also Jamie, and their six-month-old son Flynn.
She had been using Natural Cycles for three months when she became pregnant.
Jamie, who is on maternity leave from a handbag design company, said: “After doing various forms of contraception, I got fed up.
“One caused headaches and others just didn’t suit me.
“I’d been with my boyfriend for nine years when I chose to use Natural Cycles. I bought all the spiel, I bought the thermometer and I even had another app on the go to see when my fertile days were.
“I was using the app correctly and avoiding fertile days and the next thing I know, I was pregnant.
“I was doing it for three or four months before I fell pregnant. I remember going to a party and not being able to drink and then I missed a period.
“I just knew I was pregnant. I took a test and it confirmed it. It was very traumatic at the time because it was unplanned and unexpected. Now I have my little boy I am over the moon but at the time it was a lot of stress. I was facing redundancy.
“I was in a solid relationship but we hadn’t bought a house. In our eyes we saw this pregnancy happening two, three years down the line, just because we wanted to buy a place. It really wasn’t ideal.
“I didn’t feel I could have an abortion. If I was in my early twenties then, maybe, but I’ve had a few friends who have had fertility problems and I thought ‘what if I terminate this baby then we can’t have babies?’
“So we ended up keeping the baby but we had to move back in with my parents. We had been living in a shared house and you can’t bring a baby into a shared house.
“At the time I felt upset. I’d discussed using the app with my partner and he agreed because I said it was really effective. I felt guilty because it felt like I’d tricked him into pregnancy.
“We’re still not in a great position. We still haven’t bought a house and I’m going to have to go back to work soon.
“I don’t regret in any way my child but I had trusted them and I expected it to work.