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 speck physicist Elina Berglund, 35, is explaining how she inadvertently ran from the cutting edge of technical 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 acquire the Nobel prize ). 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 seat for 10 times, Berglund remembers not wanting to get another one.” I was thinking:’ OK, I want to have kids in a few years, so what can I do to bridge this breach ?’ I felt like maybe it was a good time to let my organization get back to ovulating again and get even to normal before I is ready to get pregnant .”

To bypass the implant while continuing to limiting her fertility, she improved 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 peers wanted to try it.

While on their honeymoon, her husband, Raoul Scherwitzl, “whos also” a physicist, recommended turning the algorithm into an app. She immediately read the entreaty:” I could see that so many wives would benefit from it .” Today their app, Natural Cycles, has more than a million registered customers worldwide, $37.5 m in speculation and 95 employees globally. It’s the first app to be attested as a contraceptive in Europe and cleared by the FDA to be marketed as family planning in the US, where it officially launched this March for $9.99 a month.

At nine months pregnant with her second progeny, 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
The Natural Cycles app, which came under scrutiny last year. Photograph: Danijela Froki/ Natural Cycles

As a contraceptive, the app claimed responsibility for 93% effective with” usual employment” and 98% effective with” perfect give “. This is comparable to 85% usual and 98% perfect for condoms, or 91% usual and 99% perfect for the pill, according to Planned Parenthood people.

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

In January 2018, the Swedish Medical Products Agency( MPA) guided 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 has demonstrated that the maternities were in fact in line with the product’s failure rate, but questioned the corporation is” clarify possible risks of unwanted pregnancies” in the instructions and app.

In retrospect, Berglund says it is” not really strange that they raised this alarm because it was 37 maternities 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 statement about it .” She says “shes been” found their decision to include typical call collapses unusual.

In August, the Advertising Standards Authority in Britain ruled that a 2017 Facebook ad for Natural Cycles that includes the words” highly accurate” and” clinically tested” was misinforming. This, Berglund acknowledges, was a mistake:” It draws no gumption 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 handles unwanted pregnancies 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 los frequencies. And these 37 females is not the first time I’ve dealt with unwanted pregnancy from Natural Cycles. We try to follow up with our useds on a monthly basis and I …” she takes a late sigh in.

Through an exhale, 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 register their information into the app to find out whether they’re on a “green”( not fertile) or “red”( fruitful) date. It also has ” design a pregnancy” mode.

The most common reason for unwanted pregnancies, Berglund says, is beings not utilizing shelter on red eras. If people exploited it perfectly and simply on green periods, she says the failing pace “couldve been” 0.5%( the 98%” perfect employment” effectiveness frequency takes into account condom failure ). The reason it is not 100% effective, she illustrates, is because sometimes the body unexpectedly 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 their own bodies that measures all hormones immediately ,” she says, rather optimistically. While “its almost” possible on an academic level, she shows, 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 authority funding and has attempted to restrict access to contraception.

” As a European scientist I’m of course more pro leaving the women as much option as possible and making them pick. 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 stores 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 birth control methods?” Well, I haven’t seen that happening yet. If it would I would of course fight that. But had still not been .” The corporation does not, she says, share personal data.

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

And what about birth control mixtures for men? Berglund plans to stick to women’s health for now, but hopes to see more male options in the future. Men, she says, have been resistant to putting up with the kinds of side-effects that females suffer from hormonal contraception in studies, which doesn’t support research.

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

Having acted in two often male-dominated manufactures, physics and tech, Berglund says she has been lucky to work among women( Natural Cycles’ faculty is 65% female and 35% male .) She believes obligating those subjects more petitioning 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 culminate, whereas beings 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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