Q&A: How Does Natural Cycles Work?

By: Julie Loffredi, National Lifestyle Content Desk

Dr. Elina Berglund Scherwitzl is the co-founder and CEO of Natural Cycles, a new FDA cleared birth control app. In this Q&A, Dr. Elina talks about how her personal experience helped set in motion the new technology that over 1.5 million women are now using worldwide.

Q:  How does it actually work?

Elina: Natural Cycles is an app powered by a smart algorithm that is able to identify your daily fertility status from your basal body temperature. Each day, a user enters their temperature first thing in the morning and the algorithm gives out a red or green day:

  • Red days: You are fertile and should use protection during intercourse if preventing pregnancy. 

  • Green day: You are not fertile and do not need to use protection during intercourse.

When used perfectly, Natural Cycles birth control is 98% effective in preventing pregnancy. Perfect use means not having unprotected sex on red days. Natural Cycles is 93% effective with typical use – which is due to all possible reasons, including having sex on red days.

Q: How did you come up with this idea?

Elina: It sounds counterintuitive to many, but I actually came up with the idea for Natural Cycles birth control when starting to think about planning my own pregnancy. At the time, I was working as a particle physicist at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) and my husband and I were starting to talk about our future family. 

I had been using a birth control implant throughout most of my 20’s after a negative experience with the birth control pill. While the implant worked quite well, I knew we wanted to start trying in a year or two so I wanted to remove it. In addition to it being invasive, I also wanted to take a break from hormonal birth control to give my body a chance to get back to its natural state well before pregnancy.

I quickly realized I was extremely limited when it came to finding a regulated birth control option that was both non-invasive and non-hormonal. As a particle physicist and researcher, I decided to take things into my own hands so I developed the first and only FDA cleared birth control app. The app analyzes a woman’s body temperature to determine when she ovulates and when she is and isn’t fertile. 

Q: What feedback have you received from women who are using the app?

Elina: We currently have over 1.5 million registered users across 160 countries and continue to grow quickly. We have celebrated a lot of achievements such as the FDA clearance and funding from major investors, but the highlight of my work continues to be hearing from our users who we call Cyclers.

While every user and story is different, something we hear pretty consistently is that Natural Cycles has empowered them to take control of their own body.

Sometimes that control means just feeling in tune with their body or experiencing their natural menstrual cycle for the first time since they were prescribed hormonal birth control as a teenager. Others have actually been able to identify an issue with their body because of what the app has taught them and in turn empowered them to speak with their healthcare professional. 

 And of course,  I also love seeing users share photos of their babies who were born at the time the user was ready to be a mom. We have many users who use Natural Cycles to prevent and then plan pregnancy. I think this is great because as a whole, across women’s health we have consistently talked a lot about preventing pregnancy, but not so much about planning pregnancy – which is as equally important when talking about reproductive well-being. Most women, myself included, spend the majority of their fertile years trying to prevent pregnancy and there are so many questions and frustration when it comes time to conceive.

Q: Where can you get more information?

Alina: Switching birth control is a big decision and I always encourage women to do their research and speak to their healthcare professional. We have a ton of resources available on our website, Naturalcycles.com, including a “Is right for me?” quiz. We also have an amazing customer support team who can answer any questions because all of us women should be asking more questions when it comes to our health.