Elina Berglund and her husband, Raoul Scherwitzl, were planning a pregnancy with Berglund wondering about the ten years of hormonal contraception that needed to be taken into account, when she discovered that the basal body temperature changes throughout the cycle and that it is, therefore, possible to detect ovulation. As a particle physicist, she was not only familiar with data analysis work, but also loved getting lost into such work. She did research with CERN for many years and was part of the team that won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2013 for discovering the Higgs particle in the ATLAS experiment.
Berglund came up with an algorithm that would keep track of the body’s fertility. The algorithm was very popular with her friends and colleagues and her husband, also a scientist with entrepreneurial ambition, suggested turning the idea it into an app so all couples can use the algorithm. A few months later they quit their jobs in science and started Natural Cycles.
Natural Cycles is proclaimed the safe, healthy and easy-to-use fertility app for women based on their body temperature, which is used to prevent, plan and monitor pregnancies. The advanced algorithm allows users to calculate a higher accuracy to let you know when you are fertile, but more importantly when there is no risk of fertility, i.e. when it is safe to have unprotected intercourse if you do not want to get pregnant.
Natural Cycles is the only app whose effectiveness and accuracy is validated by clinical studies. In a recent clinical study conducted in conjunction with The Karolina Institute the results showed that Natural Cycles is as effective as the pill – without the side effects. The study analysed the Pearl Index, the most common technique used in clinical studies for reporting the effectiveness of a birth control method. The index evaluates how many women out of 100 will experience an accidental pregnancy within 1 year of using contraception. The pill has a Pearl Index of 0.3 and 9.0 which means that, used perfectly (both consistently and correctly) the percentage of women who experience an accidental pregnancy during the first year is 0.3 (3 women out of every 1,000), compared with typical couples where 9 women in every 100 will experience an accidental pregnancy during the first year.
Typically, 24 women out of 100 are expected to get pregnant with natural family planning methods but the findings from this clinical study concludes that Natural Cycles has a Pearl Index a typical use of 7.0 which means that a similar amount of women are expected to experience accidental pregnancy using Natural Cycles as with the pill.
An Accelerated journey to success
The app’s main challenge was to fit into the regulations that were written long before the existence of mobile apps. Currently, it’s CE marked and ISO certified as a medical device as a fertility monitor, similar to the fertility computers that previously existed on the market. As it grew very fast in Sweden and reached a market share of 4% of the contraceptive market in one year, the regulators woke up. They examined the European level of risk class.
Different countries had different answers as the law is unclear. After spending a lot of time, money and effort trying to figure these things out for ourselves they are now working to become a medical device of a higher risk class, same class as a condom. But the app has become successful in many countries and has raised $6 million Series A in funding from Bonnier Media Growth, the venture arm of the Swedish media business and existing investors Sunstone and E-ventures. They generate revenue through a subscription model and the users can try the app for free for one month and then subscribe on a monthly or yearly basis.
Inspirations and Vision
Fabiola Gianotti, who led the ATLAS experiment during the Higgs discovery, has been a big inspiration for Elina Berglund. A second person that inspires her is her two-year-old daughter, Alba. Watching her grow up and seeing how smart she is and eager to learn new things at this age makes Berglund wonder about the world she will grow up in, a world that she hopes to, in some small way, improve, for future women with the work that she does with Natural Cycles today.
The company’s vision is that every pregnancy should be wanted worldwide and Berglund echoes that with her wish to make the biggest difference in those parts of the world where there is no or little access to birth control.