A contraception app advert has been banned for misleading people after 37 users fell pregnant

A contraception app advert has been banned for misleading people after 37 users fell pregnant
Sweden-based health tech firm Natural Cycles uses an algorithm to track a woman's fertility based on body temperature (Photo: Natural Cycles)

A birth control app which claims to be 99 per cent effective in preventing pregnancies has had a Facebook advert banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for exaggerating and misleading users.

The ASA has ruled that the Natural Cycles can no longer describe its fertility app as a “Highly accurate contraceptive app”, nor a “Clinically tested alternative to birth control methods”.

The decision comes after three complainants challenged the claims made in a Facebook advert shown in July 2017.

The advert ran for approximately four weeks on the social media site.

93 per cent effective under typical use

Launched in Switzerland in 2014, Sweden-based health tech firm Natural Cycles uses an algorithm to track a woman’s fertility based on body temperature.

The Natural Cycles app has around 300,000 users who each pay £39.99 a year (Photo: Shutterstock)
The Natural Cycles app has around 300,000 users who each pay £39.99 a year (Photo: Shutterstock)

It claims to be 93 per cent effective under typical use (which factors in days where temperature may be skewed), or  99 per cent effective if used exactly as instructed.

It is also the first app to be approved as a form of birth control in Europe.

Earlier this year the tech firm came under fire after 37 women in Sweden reportedly fell pregnant after using the fertility tracker.

Despite the controversies the app still has around 300,000 users who pay £39.99 a year to use the service.

A call for more independent evidence

“The ASA has highlighted an important distinction between typical and perfect use of contraception,” said Bekki Burbidge, Deputy Chief Executive of sexual health charity, Family Planning Association (FPA).

“It’s really important when choosing contraception that effectiveness rates are clearly explained so women understand what their chances of getting pregnant are.

“The most effective methods are those you can ‘fit and forget’ like the implant, IUD and IUS, which are all more than 99 per cent effective at preventing pregnancy.

“Other methods rely on you using them correctly and consistently every time to be most effective, but it can be easy to make a mistake, which puts you at greater risk of pregnancy. If typical use rates aren’t clearly communicated then women can’t make an informed choice about whether that method is right for them.”

'Fit and forget' methods of contraception such as the implant, IUD and IUS are the most effective (Photo: Shutterstock)
‘Fit and forget’ methods of contraception such as the implant, IUD and IUS are the most effective (Photo: Shutterstock)

“We need more independent evidence on the reliability and effectiveness of Natural Cycles and other fertility apps so that women who do want to use them can make a fully informed choice about whether or not it’s the right option for them.”

‘Committed to being open and transparent’

The ASA has ruled that the ad must not appear again on Facebook in the complained form, nor “state or imply that the app was a highly accurate method of contraception and to take care not to exaggerate the efficacy of the app in preventing pregnancies”.

In a statement Natural Cycles said that it accepted the ASA ruling.

“We are committed to being open and transparent in our communications to ensure our message is clear and provides women with the information they need to determine if Natural Cycles is right for them. As part of these efforts, every advertisement undergoes a strict approval process,” said the company.

“Natural Cycles has been independently evaluated and cleared by regulators in Europe and the US based on clinical evidence demonstrating its effectiveness as a method of contraception.”