Elina Berglund says her Natural Cycles app has worked for her. Now her focus is on the US, where womens healthcare is a political battleground

In an air-starved meeting room in Manhattan’s Financial District, heavily pregnant corpuscle physicist Elina Berglund, 35, is explaining how she unknowingly led from the cutting edge of scientific detection to the frontline of birth control.

In spring 2012, the Swedish scientist was working in Geneva at Cern, where she was part of the team looking for the Higgs boson particle( the finding would later prevail the Nobel prize winner ). It was then that she started looking for a natural alternative to hormonal contraceptives.

Pointing to the three little scars on her upper arm from where her implant sat for 10 years, Berglund recollects not wanting to get another one.” I was thinking:’ OK, I want to have kids in a few years, so “whats being” I do to bridge this spread ?’ I felt like maybe it was a good time to let my mas get back to ovulating again and get back to normal before I is ready to get pregnant .”

To bypass the implant while continuing to restraining her fertility, she built an algorithm which analysed her lowest remaining temperature each day to determine whether or not she could become pregnant( women’s basal body temperature rises after ovulation ). Soon, her colleagues wanted to try it.

While on their honeymoon, her husband, Raoul Scherwitzl, who is also a physicist, indicated turning the algorithm into an app. She swiftly encountered the request:” I could see that so many dames would benefit from it .” Today their app, Natural Cycles, has more than a million registered users worldwide, $37.5 m in asset and 95 hires globally. It’s the first app to be attested as a contraceptive in Europe and cleared by the FDA to be marketed as birth control in the US, where it officially launched this March for $9.99 a month.

At nine months pregnant with her second babe, Berglund says the app has worked successfully for her as both a contraceptive and in conceiving.” I’m a person who really likes to plan and optimise. I like to say exactly what month I want to get pregnant .”

The Natural Cycles app, which came under investigation last year. Photograph: Danijela Froki/ Natural Cycles

As a contraceptive, the app claimed responsibility for 93% effective with” usual employ” and 98% effective with” perfect apply “. This compares with 85% typical and 98% perfect for condoms, or 91% usual and 99% perfect for the pill, according to Planned Parenthood representations.

But last year, Natural Cycles’ effectiveness came under public scrutiny.

In January 2018, the Swedish Medical Products Agency( MPA) ran a widely publicised investigation after Sodersjukhuset hospital in Stockholm reported that 37 Natural Cycles users had abortions in a four-month period. The MPA later confirmed that the maternities were in fact in line with the product’s failure rate, but asked the company to” clarify the hazards of unwanted maternities” in the instructions and app.

In retrospect, Berglund says it is” not so strange that they heightened this alarm because it was 37 pregnancies out of 668 and of course if there’s a new product … However, what was a little bit strange was that they also went out with a press release about it .” She says “shes been” spotted their decision to include usual utilize omissions unusual.

In August, the Advertising Standards Authority in Britain ruled that a 2017 Facebook ad for Natural Cycles that includes the phrases” highly accurate” and” clinically tested” was misinforming. This, Berglund admits, was a mistake:” It acquires no feel to talk about accuracy when it comes to contraception, you talk about effectiveness, so I think they’re completely right about that .”

When I ask about how she administers unwanted maternities of users personally, she seems genuinely stricken.” “Its certainly true it is” the downside of working with contraception, that it will never succeed to 100%, so there will always be these failing proportions. And these 37 women is not the first time I’ve dealt with unwanted maternity from Natural Cycles. We try to follow up with our customers on a monthly basis and I …” she takes a late sigh in.

Through an breath, she continues:” It’s always very hard. You want to do something good and then you have a woman contacting you because it flunked for her, it’s super tough .”

Users are encouraged to check their temperature at least five days a week as soon as they wake up and enroll their knowledge into the app to find out whether they’re on a “green”( not fertile) or “red”( fertile) day. It also has ” proposal a pregnancy” mode.

The most common reason for unwanted pregnancies, Berglund says, is parties not utilizing shield on red daylights. If people applied it perfectly and exclusively on green daylights, she says the collapse rate “couldve been” 0.5%( the 98%” perfect give” effectiveness proportion takes into account condom failure ). The reason it is not 100% effective, she clarifies, is because sometimes their own bodies suddenly ovulates early, or there is a temperature rise that looks like ovulation but isn’t.

” My dream is if we could have a chip in the body the above measures all hormones immediately ,” she says, quite optimistically. While it is almost possible on an academic rank, she excuses, it’s by no means imminent from a consumer perspective.

For now, though, her focus is on the US, where she says they plan to learn from their experiences in Europe. Berglund and her husband relocated from Stockholm to New York in September. So far, the response has been positive- from both the medical community and users. But of course, the birth control arena in the US comes with its own unique politics.

Women’s healthcare in America is a key political battleground for the Trump administration. It recently announced it will stop organisations that refer parties for abortions from receiving government fund and has attempted to restrict access to contraception.

” As a European scientist I’m of course more pro making the women as much option as possible and telling them choice. I think that’s more the right thing to do ,” says Berglund, who describes herself as pro-choice.

But with Natural Cycles already working with Title X- a government scheme that monies reproductive healthcare to low-income Americans- to give free access to underprivileged women in New Hampshire, it seems that whether or not Berglund intends to, getting caught up in politics may be unavoidable.

How would she feel if her app was used by the Trump administration to disempower women by restricting access to other family planning procedures?” Well, I haven’t seen that happening yet. If it would I would of course fighting that. But not yet .” The company does not, she says, share personal data.

Berglund says numerous pharmaceutical companies are cutting funding for women’s health. She hopes that the booming femtech manufacture( predicted to be valued at $50 bn by 2025) will be able to step in to fill it with more commodities by and for women.

And what about family planning solutions for men? Berglund plans to stick to women’s health for now, but said that he hoped that more male options in the future. Men, she says, have been resistant to putting up with the kinds of side-effects that ladies know from hormonal contraception in studies, which doesn’t support research.

” I think that’s very sad because, you are aware … why do we have to deal with it ?”

Having toiled in two typically male-dominated industries, physics and tech, Berglund says she has been luck to work among women( Natural Cycles’ staff is 65% female and 35% male .) She belief becoming those subjects more pleading to women in some circumstances could be as simple as reframing it. Women, she says, are often more interested in programming as a means to an intention, whereas gentlemen are more often interested in the technology itself.

Her daughter Alba, who is four, is already showing an interest in nature and the universe. When she is five, Berglund says she might start schooling her about coding.


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