The 21st century developments in science and technology have opened up new horizons for Natural Family Planning methods. Within the last 10 years, smartphones and apps, combined with new technological devices, have given husbands and wives new options for using an NFP method that works for them, either to achieve or postpone pregnancy in line with God’s plan for life and love.
The world owes a debt of gratitude that Blessed Paul VI wrote Humanae Vitae, and did not give into the calls that “the pill” was the future, and natural methods should be ignored.
Now 50 years later, the pill is being reconsidered by women wary of the potential negative effects, and are looking to track their fertility for health purposes, or who want methods for achieving or postponing pregnancy that do not involve either expensive invasive procedures, or filling their bodies with artificial hormones.
Some of the apps out there work with existing NFP methods, and in some cases, are pioneering some new ones.
New technology is not just empowering for women to understand their health and fertility. The new and emerging gadgets and apps provide an entrée for husbands to engage with NFP and discuss it with their wives.
Some of these devices and apps are recognized in Europe as effective in delaying pregnancy for the sake of what Paul VI said was responsible parenthood. But in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration places enormous hurdles that make testing and marketing these devices for both achieving and delaying pregnancy very difficult. As a result, the devices are marketed in the US to achieve pregnancy, but some have off-label protocols for couples who wish to delay pregnancy.
The FDA’s hurdles, for a long time, ensured that big pharmaceutical companies that produce artificial contraception have a monopoly in this area. That may change in the coming years. As more investors start pouring money into NFP apps and devices to meet the demand, some studies may be funded down the road to clear the FDA hurdles, and market them as an alternative to hormonal contraception.
There is no single NFP method to “rule them all,” because every woman is different, every couple is different, and their personalities, bodily health, and schedules are different. The wide variety of NFP methods and devices are there to adapt to each woman’s, and each couple’s needs.
Some devices are better at achieving pregnancy than delaying pregnancy. Some devices work better for postpartum than others. Some devices excel at both, but may cost more. In any case, a couple should do their research, and if they find a method that they think might work for them, they should seek out an instructor that can help them learn the method that works for them.
Here are some NFP devices:
- Clearblue Fertility Monitor: This device measures LH and estrogen female hormones — not the effects of the hormone — through a morning urine sample. The device is used in conjunction with the Marquette Model of NFP, and its protocols for postponing or achieving pregnancy, including for postpartum women. Data is recorded on the device, and can be entered into the tracking app of choice.
- Advanced Clearblue: This Clearblue device also measures LH and estrogen hormones with a daily urine sample, but sends the information via bluetooth to a cell phone app. This is another possibility for use with the Marquette Model of NFP.
- Tempdrop wearable thermometer: This is wearable NFP tech developed in Israel. The Tempdrop is secured to an armband at night, and records a woman’s basal body temperature as she sleeps. The device syncs to the Tempdrop app or the Ovuview app.
- Ava: This device is worn like a wristwatch and tracks skin, temperature, heart rate, sleep quality, and other bodily signs. The device then syncs with its app on a woman’s smartphone in the morning. It is used for cycle tracking, fertility tracking, and can assist health monitoring during pregnancy.
- Kindara Wink thermometer: this is a bluetooth basal body thermometer that syncs to the Kindara app. Upon waking a woman takes her temperature and the data is sent to the app.
- Femometer thermometer: This BBT thermometer syncs to the Femometer app, which, as of publication, is available only through the Apple Store. Again, a woman takes her temperature with the device upon waking, and the data is synced to the Femometer app via Bluetooth.
- OvaCue Fertility Montitor: The OvaCue system is a monitor that measures electrolytes to predict ovulation by means of an oral sensor and a vaginal sensor. The data then syncs to an app on a mobile device.
- Pearl system: This system involves a smartphone, an app, and hormone test strips. A woman can wake up any time, but takes a sample of the first morning urine and tests for LH and FSH hormones. A woman then takes a picture of the test strips, and the app interprets the data. The system will be in English, Spanish, German, and French.
- BluDiagnostics Fertility Finder: This emerging tech device analyzes hormones in saliva, and displays the results. It is designed to help women who have challenges conceiving. The start-up company was formed in 2015 by Katie Brenner, a mom who struggled with her own fertility challenges, and has advanced degrees in electrical engineering, bioengineering, and biochemistry.
Editor’s note: You can find more information on National NFP Awareness Week at the USCCB website.
Peter Jesserer Smith is a staff writer for the National Catholic Register, and a contributor to Angelus News.
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