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 inadvertently disappeared from the cutting edge of scientific discovery 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 win 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 times, Berglund recollects not wanting to get another one.” I was thinking:’ OK, I want to have boys in a few years, so what can I do to bridge this crack ?’ I felt like maybe it was a good time to let my person get back to ovulating again and win back to ordinary before I wanted to get pregnant .”

To bypass the embed while continuing to verifying her fertility, she constructed 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, who is also a physicist, proposed turning the algorithm into an app. She soon visualized the plead:” I could see that so many women would benefit from it .” Today their app, Natural Cycles, has more than a million registered useds worldwide, $37.5 m in speculation and 95 hires globally. It’s the first app to be showed 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 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
The Natural Cycles app, which came under scrutiny last year. Photograph: Danijela Froki/ Natural Cycles

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

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 customers 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 questioned the corporation is” clarify possible risks of unwanted pregnancies” in the instructions and app.

In retrospect, Berglund says it is” not so strange that they caused 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 statement about it .” She says “shes been” noticed their decision to include usual apply flops unusual.

In August, the Advertising Standards Authority in Britain ruled that a 2017 Facebook ad for Natural Cycles that included the terms” highly accurate” and” clinically measured” was misleading. This, Berglund acknowledges, was a mistake:” It prepares 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 manages unwanted maternities of users personally, she seems genuinely stricken.” This is really the downside of working with contraception, that it will never succeed to 100%, so there will always be these flop charges. And these 37 ladies is not the first time I’ve dealt with unwanted pregnancy from Natural Cycles. We try to follow up with our consumers on a monthly basis and I …” she takes a deep 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 register their knowledge into the app to find out whether they’re on a “green”( not fertile) or “red”( fruitful) daytime. It also has ” project a pregnancy” mode.

The most common reason for unwanted pregnancies, Berglund says, is beings not utilizing shelter on red epoches. If people employed it perfectly and only on light-green daytimes, she says the los proportion would be 0.5%( the 98%” perfect implement” effectiveness rate takes into account condom failure ). The reason it is not 100% effective, she illustrates, is because sometimes the body 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 that measures all hormones immediately ,” she says, somewhat optimistically. While it is almost possible on an academic grade, 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 beings for abortions from receiving authority fund and has attempted to restrict access to contraception.

” As a European scientist I’m of course more pro throwing the women as much option as possible and giving them choose. I think that’s more the best 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 techniques?” Well, I haven’t seen that happening hitherto. If it would I would of course fighting that. But had still not been .” The company 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 fill it with more makes by and for women.

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

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

Having drove in two normally male-dominated manufactures, physics and tech, Berglund says she has been lucky to work among women( Natural Cycles’ staff is 65% female and 35% male .) She speculates clearing those subjects more requesting 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 purpose, whereas males 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 teach her about coding.

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