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Dublin: 17 °C Friday 10 April, 2020

Here's what those ads about ovulation cycles you've been seeing on Instagram mean

Just call us The Mythbusters.

IF YOU’RE NOT seeing ads for ‘body-shaper quizzes’, workout clothes, or singing apps in your Instagram stories, you are one of the lucky ones.

*blocks Kevin Paern*

Recently, other ads have been popping up concerning ovulation cycles.

These ones, to be exact.

DPWpyuyXkAIq7Ib Source: Natural Cycles/@mollyfinn_x/Twitter

Source: Natural Cycles/@mollyfinn_x/Twitter

DPWpyuwXkAAVt9q Source: Natural Cycles/@mollyfinn_x/Twitter


Natural Cycles is the first birth control app to be officially approved as a contraceptive “using only mathematics”.

Ok, but how does it actually work?

Natural Cycles is  a “fertility awareness-based” method of birth control, supported by an algorithm.

Around the time a woman ovulates, her body temperature rises slightly (about 0.3℃) and remains slightly elevated throughout the rest of her cycle.

Her ova (female eggs) only live for about a day. That means that if she were to have sex with a man for a window of time after ovulation, she will not get pregnant. If she has sex with a man before she ovulates, on the other hand, she can get pregnant — sperm can stay alive in the uterus for close to a week.

The algorithm takes into account a woman’s temperature and many other factors like sperm survival, temperature fluctuations, and cycle irregularities. That way, it can detect ovulation and fertility as well as the different stages of her cycle.

original (1) Source: Natural Cycles

So, is that ad true? About not being able to get pregnant every day?

The Instagram ad claims above that:

On around 75% of your cycle days, you cannot get pregnant.”

The average menstrual cycle is 28 days long (as this is an average, this is obviously going to vary person to person).

To get pregnant, you need to have sex on the days leading up to and around when you ovulate. The two to three days prior to ovulation, and the day of ovulation itself, being your most fertile days.

Once the egg has gone (usually within a day of ovulation) you cannot get pregnant until after your next menstrual cycle has started.

So, if there’s a week in which there’s a chance to get pregnant, that’s 7 potential days you can get pregnant.

7 / 28 x 100 = 25% of your cycle, there is a possibility of getting pregnant.

So yeah, pretty much.

HOWEVER – you obviously need to be tracking your ovulation to cycles in order for this to work.

And it goes without saying, but apps can’t protect you against STIs (not yet anyway) so it’s still advisable to use barrier contraceptives like condoms and dental dams.

giphy (49)

Ads like this can be problematic in the way they phrase certain things, especially when there are so many misconceptions about, eh, conception as there is. And especially on a platform that boasts such a large, young female audience.

It’s not as simple as just assuming the risk is reduced because only a quarter of your cycle can be considered a risky period. This method is hard work, and isn’t suitable for everyone.

Fertility awareness methods “may not work” for women who have any of the following:

  • More than one sex partner
  • A sex partner who “isn’t as committed to fertility awareness-based methods as you are”
  • Trouble keeping close track of “safe days”
  • Trouble abstaining or using another method for at least 10 “unsafe days” during each cycle
  • For women who take medicine that may affect reading any of the signs of these methods.

TL;DR – The claims are, for the most part, true, but not for everyone.

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